Dudley has been in the oyster business for his entire life, and still lives beside his family’s oyster beds on the farm where he was born.
- Oyster Aquaculture
- Fairport, Virginia
The Chesapeake Bay’s oyster population was at one time one of the most plentiful in the nation with its ideal brackish waters, and oyster harvesting was a booming industry throughout the Bay’s communities. Oyster farming was likely developed in tandem with pearl farming, and dates back to at least the ancient Romans, as early as the first century BC. In the 1960s, decades of disease, pollution, and habitat destruction led to the decline of the oyster population in the Bay, nearly destroying them completely by late in the 1980s. With fewer oysters, the health of the bay declined because oysters feed on sediment and algae, which, when left unchecked, cloud the water and kill underwater grasses essential to maintaining the Bay’s water quality. Fortunately, the Bay oyster population has experienced a recent resurgence as a result of innovative techniques used by watermen who have moved from the traditional planting of shells on the Bay’s floor to farming using cages, racks, and floats. Thus, the number of farmed oysters nearly tripled between 2005 and 2006, and growers predict continued increases during the next growing seasons. Among those leading the charge toward this new form of aquaculture is Dudley Biddlecomb of Fair Port, Virginia. Dudley has been in the oyster business for his entire life, and still lives beside his family’s oyster beds on the farm where he was born. Dudley’s grandfather dredged oysters late in the 1800s, and the Biddlecomb family’s state lease goes back to 1920s. Over the years, Dudley experimented with a variety of methods of planting oysters until he came upon this new, innovative technique. Dudley has become a major advocate and teacher of this new oystering technique, and is a dedicated voice in cleaning up his beloved Bay.