Hampton Groups Declare Oyster Renaissance in the City

Business, science, and community connect to put oysters back on the map.in Hampton

Business, science, and conservation organizations in the City of Hampton today declared an oyster renaissance, highlighting increasing oyster populations, a growing local seafood scene, volunteer oyster growing efforts, and the support of Hampton businesses.
 
Hampton was a center of the Chesapeake Bay oyster industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but pollution, overharvesting, and disease caused a major decline in the oyster population across the region.
 
“Oysters are ingrained in Hampton’s history, culture, and economy, but for years declining populations took a toll. Today there is a remarkable oyster renaissance happening in the City of Hampton, mirroring the larger comeback of oysters across the Chesapeake region,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Oyster Restoration Manager Jackie Shannon. “The efforts in Hampton show how good things happen when a community rallies around oysters.”
Partners working toward Hampton’s oyster renaissance include Hampton University, local businesses, Hampton City schools, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), and volunteers participating in CBF’s oyster gardening and shell recycling efforts.
 
Thriving oyster populations benefit the local ecology, economy, and community. Many local businesses rely on oysters, including several Hampton-based wholesale seafood suppliers. Hampton restaurants feature Virginia oysters on their menus. Tourism relies on healthy, productive waterways.

Shored Up is a Hampton-based ecotourism business that specializes in showcasing oysters as part of its tours. This small, woman-owned business is organizing a big effort to raise awareness around oysters with a Shellabration celebration, a free community event in Hampton on Nov. 19.
 
“We’re putting oysters back on the map, and on the menus and minds of people in Hampton Roads,” said Claire Neubert, Shored Up co-founder.
 
“Enjoy Virginia oyster month this November at the Shellabration, a celebration of our beloved Bay bivalve as well as all the amazing efforts that businesses, organizations, educators, and residents do to support oysters,” added Linda Hamm, Shored Up co-founder.
 
Hampton’s oyster-related efforts are wide-ranging. Researchers at Hampton University are investigating the oyster population in the Hampton River in partnership with CBF. Local school children use oysters in hands-on learning experiences. Hampton restaurants and wholesalers offer Virginia oysters, many grown by a burgeoning oyster aquaculture industry.
 
CBF volunteer oyster gardeners raise oysters from babies to adults. The 46 gardeners in Hampton grow them in cages off local docks for planting on restoration reefs. CBF is now working to expand its oyster gardening program in the City Hampton, with a goal of tripling the number of Hampton gardeners by adding 100 new volunteers in the 2023 season.
 
Hampton is a regional leader in oyster shell recycling. A network of CBF volunteers pick up empty oyster shells from Hampton restaurants to replenish oyster populations on sanctuary reefs. In the past 12 months, CBF volunteers have recycled 552 bushels of oyster shells from Hampton, more than any other Virginia locality.
 
These efforts all support the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance’s ambitious goal of 10 billion new oysters in the Bay by 2025. The Chesapeake Oyster Alliance is a growing coalition of non-profits, community organizations, oyster growers, academic institutions, and businesses. The Shellabration in downtown Hampton is supported by the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance Innovation Award Program.
 
“The recovery of the Bay oyster is happening all around us,” said CBF Chesapeake Oyster Alliance Manager Tanner Council. “The Chesapeake Oyster Alliance is proud to support inclusive, innovative outreach initiatives like the Shellabration to educate and engage the public on the significance of this keystone species.”
 
The free Shellabration event, organized by Shored Up, is scheduled for Nov. 19 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. It will transform the Docks at Downtown Hampton into a festival atmosphere that features oyster-themed food and drinks, exhibits on oysters and the Bay, and live music. For more information, visit https://www.shoredupva.com/blog/you-re-invited-to-a-free-shellabration
 

Kenny Fletcher 90x110

Kenny Fletcher

Virginia Media & Communications Coordinator, CBF

kfletcher@cbf.org
804-258-1628

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