Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



This document is intended to respond to a growing demand for information on intensive, off-bottom aquaculture of the eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, in Virginia and neighboring coastal states. Over the past few years the number of individuals involved in intensive oyster aquaculture in Virginia has increased dramatically, and we now estimate that over 2000 separate off-bottom oyster culture operations are underway within the coastal waters of Virginia. Individuals involved in this activity include non-commercial gardeners, traditional watermen and members of the well-established hard clam aquaculture industry. In addition to growing oysters for personal consumption and marketing, an increasing number of individuals are participating in the activity to supply oysters for environmental restoration projects.

This publication represents an attempt to fulfill the need for an introduction to culturing oysters. The approach described here reflects a strategy which we have been developing and refining over the past 10 years. It is neither complete nor exclusive. It is directed towards the culture of C. virginica in areas where the common oyster diseases Dermo and MSX (caused by the pathogens Perkinsus marinus and Haplosporidium nelsoni, respectively) are endemic and it includes information for both commercial aquaculturists and non-commercial gardeners. This publication is revised from a 1997 edition and contains new information about the status of selective breeding programs, regulations in Virginia related to oyster aquaculture and non-indigenous oyster species. We have also attempted in this revision to provide a listing of more reference materials for individuals interested in further reading. As in the past, our experiences are drawn largely from work in Virginia, but the general strategy should be applicable in many locations from southern New Jersey south along the U.S. Atlantic coast.



Oyster culture