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Stafford, K.G. part of state oyster trail

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Tuesday the creation of the Virginia Oyster Trail, a major tourism development project that includes King George, Stafford and Westmoreland counties.

The trail, which is under development, will help connect travelers to Virginia oyster purveyors, raw bars, restaurants and the watermen culture throughout coastal Virginia, the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula and Eastern Shore.

“Virginia produces the best oysters in the world and as the oyster industry continues to grow, we want to let it be known that Virginia is also the oyster capital of the East Coast,” McAuliffe said in a news release.

“In addition to growing, harvesting and selling the best oysters, our watermen are providing good jobs in their communities, generating revenue and tax dollars throughout their region, and helping improve the environment of the Chesapeake Bay as their oysters filter millions of gallons of water each day,” he said.

The governor has also declared November Virginia Oyster Month.

The Virginia Tourism Corp., Virginia Seafood Council and other public and private organizations began working together this year to brand the Virginia oyster travel experience. The initial phase of oyster trail will take several months to a year to develop, after which there will be opportunities for other regions to participate, according to VTC spokeswoman Caroline Logan.

Virginia’s oyster industry is one of the longest-standing industries in the state, and its seven different oyster regions produce the largest quantity of fresh wild-caught and farm-raised oysters in the United States.

Each region produces oysters with distinct flavors. According to the trail’s website,, they range from those on the sea side of the Eastern Shore, which have an “initial bold saltiness that mellows into a taste of sweet butter/cream at the finish,” to “the Sweetwater oyster” of the western shore of the upper Bay area, which has “a light cream taste.”

Virginia is the nation’s third-largest producer of marine products, and the leading East Coast seafood production state, with more than 400 million pounds in landings last year. The state’s oyster industry plays a significant role in those both of those rankings, and harvests are growing, said Todd Haymore, the state’s secretary of agriculture and forestry.

Over the past 12 years, the oyster harvest in Virginia has increased from approximately 23,000 bushels in 2001 to just over 500,000 last year. That was the highest level since 1987, and the dockside value alone of the oyster harvest was more than $22 million. That’s up from approximately $16 million in 2012.

Haymore noted that international trade missions have generated new export sales to China and Canada.

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407