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New bill aims to extend oyster collection season

A new bill aims to increase the state’s oyster collection season by 30 days.

Sen. Richard H. Stuart (R-King George) introduced Senate Bill 629, which extends the patent tong oyster taking season until March 31. The season currently lasts from Oct. 1 to March 1.

Patent tongs are large, claw-like machines that extract oysters. The devices produce a larger yield compared to other harvesting methods like hand tongs.

Approximately 15 percent of the total reported public market oyster harvest in Virginia during 2020 was harvested using patent tongs, according to Andrew Button. Button is the head of the Conservation and Replenishment Department through the Fisheries Management Division, which is a part of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.The Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee recently approved the bill with 14 members voting yes and one abstention from Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D-Richmond).

Mike Hutt, executive director of the Virginia Marine Products Bo...

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