Aquaculture, also known as aquafarming, is the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic plants. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science reports that the annual economic impact of the entire Virginia seafood industry (including both aquaculture and wild fisheries) to be over one half of a billion dollars, thus making the industry one of the Commonwealth’s largest industries, in addition to one of it’s oldest.
The niche market for small-scale fish farming in Virginia continues to expand. Farm-raised fish are popping up in farmer markets and restaurants throughout the state. With demand for fresh fish straining natural populations, fish farming can help meet the demand and provide a sustainable seafood source, as well as create opportunities for small producers to participate in this developing market.
A few quick facts about aquaculture in Virginia, courtesy of Virginia Seafood:
- Continued growth of the shellfish aquaculture industry in Virginia has added significant value to the state’s seafood marketplace. Virginia’s watermen-farmers are providing consumers with a growing quantity of hard clams and oysters that represents $36.9 million dockside value.
- According to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Virginia continues to lead the nation in hard clam aquaculture production. Virginia aquaculture clams planted was estimated at $516 million.
- The 2012 crop reporting survey shows that the number of clams sold or 171 million, which puts aquaculture harvests clams and oysters in 2012 to $36.3 million.
- Market oysters sold in Virginia in 2012 was 28.1 million. Total revenue for aquaculture grown oysters, not including spat on shell was $9.5 million.
- Full time employment in the clam and oyster aquaculture industry showed increases over 2011.