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Bay Scallops Make a Comeback on Virginia’s Eastern Shore
Sweet, tender bay scallops were once a thriving commercial fishery along Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Nearly extinct for over 75 years, these tasty treats are making a comeback thanks to one of the largest seagrass restoration projects in the world.
A commercial bay scallop fishery thrived here until the 1930s—the bay scallop harvest reached about 1 million pounds per year. But disease and a major hurricane wiped out their seagrass habitat and caused a collapse in the fishery.
In recent years, NOAA has contributed $6 million and extensive technical expertise to help boost the mollusk population. Partnering with The Nature Conservancy, the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, we planted millions of seagrass seeds over roughly 300 acres. This has now spread to 5,000 acres of seagrass.
We then reintroduced 100,000 juvenile bay scallops to the restored area. Program managers estimate that within 10 years, the bay scallop population could grow to support a lucrative recreational fishery.
These investments are part of a larger effort by NOAA and its partners to improve the health of the marine environment and stimulate the ecotourism industry.
In addition to planting seagrass and reintroducing bay scallops, we also:
- restored 20 acres of native oyster reefs
- supported certification classes for ecotourism guides, and
- promoted sustainable shellfish aquaculture by developing a set of “best management practices” that have been endorsed by shellfish growers.