Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Journal Of Shellfish Research





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Exploited oyster stocks on public grounds in Virginia waters are subject to regular surveys effected using a traditional oyster dredge and, more recently, patent tongs. Dredges provide semiquantitative data, have been used with consistency over extended periods (decades), and provide data on population trends. Surveys with patent tongs provide absolute quantification (number of individuals per unit area) of oyster stocks but are more labor intensive. Absolute quantification of dredge data is difficult in that dredges accumulate organisms as they move over the bottom, may not sample with constancy throughout a single dredge haul, and may fill before completion of the haul thereby providing biased sampling. Selectivity of dredges versus patent tongs with respect to oyster demographics has not been rigorously examined. The objective of this study is to compare demographic oyster data collected at the same sites in the same years from both gear types. Data for the study were taken from 1993 to 2001 surveys conducted in the James River, Virginia, by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission wherein the same stations were sampled by both techniques. Dredge surveys give data in oysters per bushel and assume no selective retention of live oysters with respect to shell substrate by the dredge. Patent tong surveys provide data as per tong estimates of oysters by size class and shell by volume. The hydraulically operated, 1-m square tong used in VMRC/VIMS surveys is designed to sample on and below the reef surface and include elements of buried shell that are probably not well sampled by a dredge, although the sampling ensures collection of all oysters within the tong mouth. Oysters collected by both gear types were classified as small (25-75 mm) or market (>75 mm SL) for comparisons across methods. Shell volumes collected in patent tong surveys were standardized to bushel increments assuming 35.28 L of shell per bushel. The summary plots of mean values from 1993 to 2001 and 1998 to 2001 illustrate differences related to sampling gear. More shell per unit oyster (lower bushel counts) are observed in a patent tong sample. The appropriate model for attempting to fit a predictive line is open to debate, and will be influenced by patent tong penetration as determined by the degree of consolidation of the underlying substrate. The available data do not strongly support the ability to predict a relationship between dredge and patent tong population estimates at this time.


Crassostrea Virginica; Eastern Oyster; Recruitment; Survey Methods; Chesapeake Bay

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.