The economic contributions of the Virginia seafood industry were found to exceed $1.1 billion for the commonwealth in 2019, according to a new economic impact analysis conducted by the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center of Virginia Tech. Sponsored by the Virginia Marine Products Board, the VSAREC study found that Virginia’s seafood industry supported 7,187 jobs and generated over $26 million in tax revenue from local, state, and federal taxes. Twenty-four percent  - or $6.3 million - of the total tax generated was local.

Virginia’s seafood industry is one of the oldest industries in the United States and one of the commonwealth’s largest. This study provides a snapshot of the industry’s tremendous impact to Virginia’s economy,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “The $1.1 billion industry not only provides a boost to our economy, it also provides valuable employment opportunities in Eastern Virginia, and supports a range of other economic sectors.”

Jonathan van Senten, seafood economist at the VSAREC and lead researcher for the study, said the project is a direct response to requests from industry stakeholders to better understand the reach and economic impact of the Virginia seafood industry within the commonwealth.

“We worked directly with watermen, aquaculture farmers, seafood processors, and distributors to collect data to build a custom economic model. In addition to the direct effects of industry activities, the custom model allowed us to more accurately capture the ripple effects that stem from business-to-business purchases and workers spending their wages. And our results are conservative,” said van Senten. “The assessment covers the production, processing, and distribution sectors of the Virginia seafood industry, but it did not include retail and restaurant services or the spillover benefits to economies outside Virginia.”

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Virginia’s seafood industry provides valuable employment opportunities for watermen, aquaculture farmers, processors, and distributors, and it supports other economic sectors operating within and beyond our commonwealth that amplify the contribution to our economy.

“Along with being number one on the East Coast for oyster production, Virginia is fourth in the nation and first on the U.S. Atlantic Coast in seafood landings. In 2020, total landings in the commonwealth were valued at more than $200 million,” said Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr. “The seafood industry continues to be a major contributor to the state’s overall agricultural portfolio.”

Through capturing the economic benefits of the seafood supply chain to the overall state economy, the study demonstrates the magnitude and reach of the Virginia seafood industry and can be used as a tool to increase visibility for the industry. The full report, infographic, and fact sheet are published through Virginia Cooperative Extension and are available online.


Jonathan van Senten is an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech and assistant director of the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Hampton, Virginia. As the lead for the Seafood Economic Analysis and Marketing Research (SEAMaR) program, his work focuses primarily on aquaculture, aimed at understanding and quantifying the costs and impacts of the regulatory environment at the farm level. His research also involves assessing the viability of emerging species, consumer preferences and perceptions, commercial aquaponics, adoption of new technology, renewable energy, financial benchmarking, and economic impact assessment. He is a Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist and affiliate faculty in the Center for Coastal Studies.