Virginia aquaculture oysters getting international exposure

NEWPORT NEWS—Virginia aquaculture oysters are traveling to Boston this month.

At the March 20-22 International Boston Seafood Show, the largest event of its kind in the United States, retailers, wholesalers, importers and distributors will be able to sample Virginia aquaculture oysters, said Mike Hutt, executive director of the Virginia Marine Products Board.

"If you’re a player in the seafood industry, this show is where you need to be," Hutt said. "This shows the world what we’re doing here in Virginia."

Aquaculture is the process of raising fish or seafood in a controlled environment, whether outdoors or in an enclosed facility.

Virginia shellfish aquaculturalists are farming clams and oysters that represent more than $25 million in dockside value, according to the marine products board. And the economic value of the state’s aquaculture industry ranks it eighth nationally.

Despite that ranking, "we don’t get the recognition for our oysters that we should," Hutt said. "That’s why we take them to shows like this one in Boston, as well as others in and out of state."

Last year, which was Hutt’s first time taking Virginia aquaculture oysters to the Boston seafood show, he collected more than 100 trade leads. A quarter of them were for oyster growers, and he anticipates even more this year.

Providing oyster samples at the Boston show, he said, "is the best way to demonstrate the quality of Virginia aquaculture oysters."

In addition, champion oyster shucker Deborah Pratt of Middlesex County will give live demonstrations during the show.

Marketing Virginia seafood products is one of the tasks given to the VMPB, which is part of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It was created to serve as the marketing arm of the state’s seafood industry with a goal of expanding domestic and foreign sales.

Hutt said the board received a grant this year from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Some of that money is being used to create and distribute a brochure that describes the taste and flavor of the state’s oysters by region, including three varieties from the Eastern Shore, three from the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay and others from the Tidewater region.

For recipes using Virginia seafood and retail store locations, visit the board’s website at

Contact Hutt at 757-874-3474.

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