Sen. Kaine views success of Rappahannock River oysters

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Sep 04, 2013 - 02:03 PM

Photo: U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, second from left, examines oysters pulled off a Rappahannock River oyster reef onto the Virginia Marine Resources Commissioner vessel J.B. Baylor during a visit to Middlesex on Friday. With him, from left, are VMRC’s Commissioner Jack Travelstead, oyster restoration specialist Jim Wesson, fisheries management employees Captain Kyle Jones and Vernon Rowe, and Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, second from left, examines oysters pulled off a Rappahannock River oyster reef onto the Virginia Marine Resources Commissioner vessel J.B. Baylor during a visit to Middlesex on Friday. With him, from left, are VMRC’s Commissioner Jack Travelstead, oyster restoration specialist Jim Wesson, fisheries management employees Captain Kyle Jones and Vernon Rowe, and Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine got a first-hand look at Virginia’s burgeoning oyster industry on Friday, visiting the Rappahannock Oyster Company in Topping, and stopping afterward to taste some of the delicacies at the company’s on-site restaurant, Merroir.

Sailing aboard the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s workboat, the J.B. Baylor, Kaine and other dignitaries stopped at an oyster sanctuary and got a peek at ROC’s commercial aquaculture facility.

Kaine said he had been proud to help foster oyster development when he served as Virginia’s governor, and he’s now happy to continue his support of the industry at the federal level.

Oyster production, which in its heyday was nearly a million bushels annually, hit historic lows beginning in the 1980s, with annual harvests of as little as 20,000 bushels. But the harvest has increased steadily with preservation efforts and is now back up to 320,000 bushels a year, said VMRC oyster restoration specialist Jim Wesson.

Virginia shucking houses use 500,000 bushels a year, said Wesson, so they have to import 180,000 bushels, but "we hope to get back up to where everything is from our state."