Empty shells are used to help protect and grow young oyster larvae.
Virginia's Marine Resources Commission says the commonwealth will begin its largest-ever oyster replenishment initiative in May.
The initiative will use $2 million in state funds to provide habitat on public oyster grounds in the James, York and Rappahannock rivers and elsewhere in the Chesapeake Bay.
The Marine Resources Commission says the summer-long replenishment program will involve shucking houses providing shells to fish oil producer Omega Protein, which will store them at its Reedville fishery. The shells will be spread on state-owned public oyster grounds to provide habitat so naturally occurring oyster larvae can attach to the shells. They'll reach market size in approximately three years.
An anticipated one million bushels of shells will be spread on the grounds, which also include Pocomoke and Tangier sounds.
Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed the funding and the Legislature approved.