Monday, January 29, 2024

Governor Glenn Youngkin Announces Blue Catfish Processing Grant Award

Commonwealth of Virginia

Office of Governor Glenn Youngkin



Office of the Governor 

Contact: Christian Martinez 


Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services 

Contact: Michael Wallace 



Sea Farms, Inc. 

Contact: Chris Sopko 


Governor Glenn Youngkin Announces Blue Catfish Processing Grant Award

Increased processing capacity will enable Sea Farms, Inc. to expand purchasing of blue catfish from local watermen

RICHMOND, VA – Governor Glenn Youngkin announced today that Sea Farms, Inc. is being awarded $250,000 through the inaugural funding of the Governor’s Blue Catfish Processing, Flash Freezing, and Infrastructure Grant Program. This reimbursable grant will support the expansion, modernization of equipment and storage space with a new blast freezer in the company’s existing processing facility in Gloucester County. Once complete, Sea Farms will purchase more blue catfish from local watermen, which supports economic growth and helps to remove the invasive species from Virginia waterways.  

“I am pleased that this innovative funding will help mitigate the impact of blue catfish on our coastal ecosystems and turn this delicious fish into an economic driver in Virginia’s coastal communities,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “The blue catfish has become abundant in Virginia waterways and this increased processing capacity will bring more catfish to markets and restaurant tables up and down the East Coast. I encourage all Virginians to give this nutritious fish a try.”  

“This grant funding will help to turn the invasive blue catfish into a valuable commercial seafood product. The award not only benefits Sea Farms, but also local watermen who currently limit their catch due to limited processing availability,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr.  

Located in both Gloucester and Mathews counties, Sea Farms is a family-owned and operated aquaculture and seafood processing business that opened its doors in 1987. The company maintains an on-site aquaculture farm to grow oysters from larvae to maturity and operates a year-round shellfish facility for shucking and packaging shell oysters and clams. In addition, the seafood processing plant processes and distributes a variety of fish, including salmon, tuna, halibut, mahi, and swordfish. Sea Farms began processing wild-caught blue catfish in 2018 and is a certified USDA-approved catfish processor. Through its on-site distribution and logistics center, Sea Farms supplies products to local markets throughout Virginia and to entities along the East Coast.  

“This funding is crucial to the expansion of Sea Farms, as it will allow us to buy and sell larger quantities of blue catfish, hire additional employees, and support the local fishing community,” said Sea Farms Vice President of Operations Chris Sopko. “I would like to thank Governor Youngkin and his administration for this funding and support of Virginia’s seafood industry.” 

“I was happy to patron the funding proposal that made this grant opportunity available. I am delighted to see it go to good use to support the seafood industry and watermen in rural coastal Virginia and the entire Chesapeake Bay,” said Delegate Keith Hodges. 

“This investment will spark economic growth across Virginia's fishing communities, introducing a new commodity to the market, fostering increased investment, job opportunities, and a greater seafood supply for consumers.” said Senator Ryan McDougle. 

The Governor’s Blue Catfish Processing, Flash Freezing, and Infrastructure Grant Fund was established during the 2023 General Assembly session to address the overpopulation of the invasive blue catfish in the Chesapeake Bay. It is part of a larger effort by state agencies to combat a species wreaking havoc on Virginia’s ecosystems by incentivizing local watermen to catch and sell an abundant, inexpensive fish for consumer consumption. 

“Gloucester County Economic Development is pleased to support this grant award and we applaud Sea Farms, Inc. for their dedication to our waterways,” said Director Sherry Spring, Gloucester Economic Development. “Their commitment and partnership will make a positive impact in the communities surrounding the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.” 


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