- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) - Virginia’s clam and oyster industries enjoyed a banner year in 2014 as both broke sales records.

A record 243 million hard clams were sold last year, along with about 39.8 million oysters, also a record, according to the annual Virginia Shellfish Aquaculture Situation and Outlook Report released Tuesday.

Sales for both industries totaled a record $56 million, which included about $39 million in clam sales and $17 million in oyster sales.

Oyster growers’ revenue increased by 33 percent from 2013, while clam growers’ revenue increased by 14 percent, said Karen Hudson, a co-author of the report and a shellfish aquaculture extension specialist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point.

“We continue to be strong, and our industry continues to be strong and continues to grow in the oyster culture, specifically,” she told The Daily Press (http://bit.ly/1FANfQK ). “It’s exciting for the state, it’s a lot of revenue that comes into the commonwealth, and it’s a lot of jobs.”

Demand for Virginia’s oysters has grown as problems have affected other states’ industries.

Louisiana’s oyster fishery is still struggling from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and spill in the Gulf of Mexico, A parasitic disease is striking oysters in Texas, and New York closed some oyster grounds because of “significant problems” with ocean acidification, said Tolar Nolley, founder of the Oyster Company of Virginia, a cooperative of watermen, businessmen and scientists.

“So the good news is that Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay are now being once again recognized as a viable supply chain,” Nolley told the newspaper. “We need more hatcheries, we need some oyster growers and thereby the ability to move these supplies for the increased demand. And I think we’re going to see increased demand this year.”

About 86 percent of oysters farmed in Virginia were sold out of state in 2014.

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Information from: Daily Press, http://www.dailypress.com/

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