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New trail connects visitors to Virginia oysters

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 19, 2014 at 4:51 pm •  Published: August 19, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Riding a wave of growth and popularity of the state's aquaculture, Virginia officials on Tuesday announced the creation of the Virginia Oyster Trail to connect travelers to the state's oyster industry.

The industry that dates to the founding of Jamestown in 1607 is enjoying its largest harvest since 1987 and is hoping to propel Virginia's briny bivalves into the global spotlight. The newly launched trail links visitors with Virginia oyster purveyors, and restaurants, raw bars and the long-standing watermen culture throughout the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula and Virginia's Eastern Shore.

"From briny to mild, oysters have been bringing local flavor to Virginia since the first inhabitants harvested them from our waters," Gov. Terry McAuliffe said at an event announcing the trail at the Executive Mansion in Richmond that paired Virginia oysters and wine. "They are a terrific item in the world seafood market and they serve an invaluable function of filtering the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries."

Virginia's seven different oyster regions produce the largest amount of wild-caught and farm-raised oysters in the U.S., bringing the industry back from "almost total collapse," McAuliffe said.

Last year, the state's harvest increased 25 percent to more than 500,000 bushels and a dockside value of more than $22 million. Just 12 years ago, Virginia's oyster harvest was only about 23,000 bushels.

According to the Virginia Marine Resource Commission, the state has nearly 650 licensed oyster fishermen, more than 540 licensed oyster aquaculturists and more than 30 licensed oyster shucking houses.

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