HAMPTON, Va. — Author's note: The video above is on file from a story on June 15, 2022.
A thriving industry has started to come back to life in Hampton, and on Thursday, city and environmental leaders declared its return official.
That's right: oysters are back.
They didn't disappear, per se, but they've reached population levels that are now considered an "oyster renaissance," according to a news release from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
That means there has been significant growth in their numbers and in their popularity at restaurants and markets.
This has a positive impact on the economy in many ways, from tourism to local businesses.
“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.”
And the community is certainly investing in this growth.
From the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Hampton University joining forces to research and investigate oyster populations to local students getting hands-on experiences, the emphasis on education is vital for continued flourishing.
On the business side, organizations like 'ShoredUp' work on making oysters a focus of purchase for tourists and residents.
Directly in the waters, 46 volunteer oyster gardeners with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation continue to raise them from babies to adults.
They plan to expand with the help of the city to more than 100 volunteers by the end of next year.
“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.
November is set to be Virginia Oyster Month, and there will be a "Shellabration," which is a free community event in Hampton on November 19.