Oyster farmers hit hard by coronavirus closures

Business

VIRGINIA (WAVY) — Oyster farms are a fast-growing business in our area, but the coronavirus pandemic is threatening to sink their progress.

The oyster farming business is not only important for the local economy, but also for the protection of the Chesapeake Bay.

Oyster farmers reached out to WAVY.com to say they really need help. Obviously, because of coronavirus, many businesses are closed. If a restaurant is open, it is only for pick-up or delivery. Because of that, the demand for oysters has gone way down.

Bruce Vogt of Big Island Aquaculture Oysters in Gloucester, said oyster farmers throughout the bay, including his company, have seen their oyster sales fall to practically nothing.

Aaron Rowland of Rogue Oysters out of Lancaster, Virginia, said because restaurants are not buying right now, the oysters that are ready for sale are soon going to grow out of the preferred size for restaurants.

“The other issue is that it’s springtime, so we’re looking to bring in the oyster seed, put that on the farm, plant them for next year, that is going to need the space that these things are taking up, so we need these things to get out the door,” Rowland said.

So how can you help? Both Rowland and Vogt say to give your local oyster farm a call and order some oysters.

“We deliver oysters from Richmond, Williamsburg, Newport News, Hampton, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach. The whole area between Richmond and Virginia Beach, and we can arrange a time to meet with you and deliver the oysters,” Vogt said.

Vogt said they will follow CDC guidelines during delivery and will maintain social distancing. All they want is a chance to sell their product and continue to protect the bay.

Oyster gardeners with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation are reporting a banner year. Record rain in 2018 killed off many oysters in pars of the Chesapeake Bay, but the volunteers are starting to see a recovery. More new oysters are finding a home on restored sanctuary reefs.


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