Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Extensive description of the Virginia oyster resource and history of its utilization has been given by Haven, Hargis and Kendall (1981), and more recently reviewed by Hargis and Haven (1988). These contributions, among many others, describe a state of continuing decline. The James River, Virginia has served as the focal point for the Virginia oyster industry for over a century, being the source of the majority of seed oysters that were transplanted for grow-out to locations within the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay and much further afield in the Middle Atlantic states (Haven et al, 1981). The Rappahannock River in Virginia was, for many years, a source of large and valued oysters for both the shucking and half shell trade. Other subestuaries and embayments in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay have served variously as both seed oyster (e.g. the Great Wicomico and Piankatank Rivers) and market oyster (Mobjack Bay, Tangier Sound and Pocomoke Sound) sources for the once substantial historical fishety. Until the initiation of the current project with suppmt of the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee of NOAA (hereafter CBSAC) there was little effort to estimate standing stocks of oysters in the Virginia subestuaries, especially the James and Rappahannock Rivers. Continuing losses of productive oyster reef over the past 35 years to Haplosporidium nelsoni, commonly known as MSX, and Perkinsus marinus, commonly known as "Dermo", in the higher salinity regions of the Bay and the subestuaries, combined with increased fishing pressure on all remaining stocks, have emphasized the need for working estimates of standing stock. This need has been further exaggerated in the James River by a change in emphasis in the past decade from the harvesting of "seed" oysters to larger "market" oysters, and the reduction in size limit of the latter from three to two-and-one-half inches maximum dimension for the 1988 through 1994 public oyster fishing seasons. The fishery continues to exploit the limited remaining broodstock from the James River in order to retain a viable fishery for "market" oysters, while simultaneously threatening the long term future of the river as the only functional seed producing location in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay. (more ..)


Annual Report for the period October I, 1996 - September 30, 1997 with general commentary and Summary Report for the funding period October I, 1993 - September 30, 1997. Submitted to: The Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee



Oyster populations -- Virginia; Oyster fisheries -- Virginia