A FAMILY AFFAIR
Our family's roots in the Chesapeake reach all the way back to the 18th century, when the very first Cockrells emigrated here from Great Britain.
No one knows exactly where our relationship with the water began — though there's at least one creek in these parts that bears our family name. Cockrell Creek flows into the Great Wicomico River, which flows into Chesapeake Bay.
We've been hauling a living from this water for four generations — ever since our great grandfather built a homestead here and bought his first fish trap with, well, a bundle of fish.
That was in 1930, and it wouldn't be long before he was also oystering.
Our current patriarch, Andy, grew up working those same oyster leases that his grandfather secured two generations before him. It was the mid-20th century then, and wild oysters were still plentiful in the Chesapeake, with harvests of 5 to 7 million bushels not uncommon.
All that would soon change.
STEWARDS OF THE WATER
Decades of over-harvesting had decimated the Chesapeake's wild oyster population by the 1980's. Where Virginia's watermen had once pulled millions of bushels a year from the bay, they were now claiming mere thousands.
The fishery's collapse was felt across the country as the Chesapeake's once-famous oysters disappeared from menus. Closer to home, the loss was more personal — and more painful. Oystermen struggled to find work, and communities grappled with a crisis of identity.
Even as our wild fishery was collapsing, though, new aquaculture techniques were raising hopes for an oyster renaissance. A new generation of waterman emerged, melding science and tradition to restore the Chesapeake and reclaim our state's reputation as a seafood mecca. Myles Cockrell, Andy's son, joined this movement in 2001.
Today, we're proud to run one of the largest shellfish aquaculture operations in Virginia. Our oysters grace menus and delight palates from coast to coast. More importantly, with every bushel we harvest, we are restoring this body of water that has sustained our family for generations. Each time you eat one of our oysters, you are honoring this legacy and investing in the future — not just for our family, but for yours.