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“Don’t judge each day
by the harvest you reap,
but by seeds that you plant”

Robert Louis Stevenson


Oyster farming is one of the most environmentally responsible (and delicious) forms of protein production. It’s not just environmentally neutral, it leaves the environment better off—a claim few other kinds of farming can make.

How much do they filter? A single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. A healthy 25′ X 25′ oyster reef can clean up to 500,000 gallons of water an hour, or 12 million gallons a day.


Cleaner water helps bottom plants thrive, which in turn support many other organisms that depend on those plants. Much like oyster reefs.

Oyster farms have other environmental benefits.

• Oyster reefs also provide habitat and food for over 300 other marine species—as much a keystone species as tropical coral reefs. Even oyster farms provide much of this benefit.

• Farming has increased the number of oysters, and the ecological services they provide, in Chincoteague Bay and elsewhere. Farming has lessened wild oyster harvests, helping them to rebound. We don’t harvest wild native oysters, only those that we put in in the first place—like harvesting grapes we plant rather than gathering wild ones.

• Benefits go beyond the water. If Americans replaced 10% of their meat consumption with oysters, the greenhouse gas savings would be the equivalent of keeping nearly 11 million cars off of the road []. That’s roughly 3 times the number of cars registered in the metro DC area.

Culturing oysters in floating bags or on bottom racks—our practice—receives top ranking from the leading independent guides and certification programs for responsible seafood such as The Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, the Virginia Aquarium’s Sensible Seafood Guide and many others.

What happens to Chincoteague Bay’s environment is important to us and vital to a sustainable future. Chincoteague Bay is where we live, work, and play. The Bay’s health is vital to millions of migratory seabirds, plants, and animals as well as to the East Coast’s shellfish industry. We at Toby Island Bay Oyster Farm are striving for a food future with more farmed oysters and, in turn, a better environment.

Everyone Wins

“Oyster farming is one of the few situations in which both economics and the environment win: any body of water that can support a vibrant oyster industry will almost certainly be cleaner and more vital than one that cannot. Farmed salmon may turn flabby, bland and, without the addition of dye to its diet, dully grey, but eating an oyster will always be, as the Symbolist poet Léon-Paul Fargue said, ‘like kissing the sea on the lips.’”

— The Economist, December 18, 2008

The Water

Our oysters grow in 1-3 feet of water, in bottom cages sitting atop clean sediment.

Salinity in Chincoteague Bay is 25-30 parts per thousand (ppt), or 2.5%-3% salt. The nearby Atlantic Ocean water, by comparison, is about 35 ppt, or 3.5% salt. That slight difference is literally a sweet spot—you can taste the salt in our oysters initially, followed by a sweet, lower-salinity finish.


Nutritional Value

From the Cleveland Clinic, 7 Reasons to Love Oysters — Even If You Hate Them Know the health benefits of these shelled beauts.

From WebMD: Nothing beats oysters for zinc. A 3-ounce serving has 74 milligrams. That’s five times more than you need per day.

From WebMD: Nothing beats oysters for zinc. A 3-ounce serving has 74 milligrams. That’s five times more than you need per day.


Toby Island Bay Oyster Farm is committed to providing the freshest, highest quality shellfish. We are licensed under the Virginia Department of Health, Division of Shellfish Sanitation, which regularly inspects our growing waters, safety practices, packing facilities and oysters.  We follow the FDA’s systematic approach to seafood safety, known as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) program.  Our oysters are carefully handled, immediately refrigerated after harvesting and packing, and usually brought to our first weekend market within 24 hours of harvest.

To be certified for shellfish harvesting (and farming), water quality has to be better than the fishable and swimmable standards of the federal Clean Water Act.

We go beyond FDA and state requirements in two ways:

1. Our oysters get a summer break. We do not harvest when water temperatures exceed 75° F (usually June through mid-October). Even clean, unpolluted waters can have slightly elevated levels of some pathogens when water temperatures are at their highest.  Most other oyster farms harvest year-round.

2.  An independent, certified laboratory tests our oysters periodically for pathogens. So far our oysters have been squeaky clean.  But we still follow our in-house rule #1.


We provide no feed, antibiotics or any other inputs.  Oysters filter and consume natural food from the surrounding water.

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