The partnership with Toadfish Outfitters will allow VCU to plant more than 2 million oysters in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. (Photo courtesy of Rice Rivers Center)

VCU receives funding for oyster restoration work

Coastal lifestyle brand Toadfish Outfitters to donate all proceeds of its Virginia sales.

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Virginia Commonwealth University’s Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program has partnered with Toadfish Outfitters of Charleston, South Carolina, to advance its efforts to replenish oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Toadfish Outfitters, a manufacturer of coastal lifestyle products, has designated the VOSRP as the sole recipient of proceeds from the sale of Toadfish products in Virginia. VOSRP will use the funding initially to acquire 20 million oyster larvae that will be planted on recycled oyster shell placed in Chesapeake Bay waterways. This will allow VCU to plant more than 2 million oysters in the watershed, and coincides with Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week.

“Oysters are the ultimate friend of the coast as they help to keep our waters clean,” said Casey Davidson, founder of Toadfish Outfitters. “Since day one, we’ve promised to give back a portion of every product sold toward oyster habitat restoration, so working with VCU was a natural fit.”

VOSRP, part of VCU’s Rice Rivers Center, is a collaborative, community-based oyster restoration program that works closely with the Virginia seafood industry. The VOSRP currently collects recycled oyster shells from more than 50 restaurants and 30 public drop-off locations statewide to use in the creation of sanctuary oyster reefs. The shells are seeded with juvenile oysters before they are planted. These efforts are direly needed because the Virginia oyster population is currently estimated to be at two percent of peak numbers.

“We are excited about the new partnership between Toadfish Outfitters and the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program to help bring the Virginia oyster back to Chesapeake Bay,” said Greg Garman, Ph.D., director of VCU Rice Rivers Center. “The work of Toadfish has supported oyster restoration in other states and this contribution will advance our waterway conservation efforts.” 

“This is a rare, but perfectly complementary project between academia, state agencies, the community and the private sector,” said Rob Tombes, Ph.D., vice provost for life sciences and research at VCU. “Hopefully, it can be a model for future collaborative opportunities.”

Toadfish Outfitters is best known for its Put ’Em Back shucking knife made with a rust-resistant stainless-steel blade and, according to Davidson, an ergonomically designed handle, crafted out of post-consumer recycled plastic. To support VCU’s effort, purchase items from or visit a local retailer where Toadfish products are sold including The Farm Basket in Lynchburg, Virginia., Gull Hummock Gourmet Market in Cape Charles, Virginia. or any Virginia-based Sur la Table location.

“A single oyster filters up to fifty gallons of coastal water per day, removing the toxins from run off and creating a coastal habitat where hundreds of smaller species like barnacles, mussels, crab can thrive,” Davidson said. “It’s nature’s way of keeping the coast clean.”

VCU, through funding from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chesapeake Bay Program, has recently documented more than 30 fish species that utilize oyster reefs in varying life stages throughout the year. Some of these species are recreationally and commercially valuable and include: Cobia, Striped Bass, Spotted Sea Trout, Weakfish and Red Drum.

“This innovative, public-private partnership is a testament to the bay’s incredible ability to bring people together,” said Mathew Strickler, Virginia secretary of natural resources “This exciting collaboration will benefit the Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts and the commercial industry.”