Tommy Leggett

M.S. '80

Current Position: Owner of Chessie Seafood and Aqufarms
Advisor: Dr. Morris Roberts


A 1980 graduate of the Master’s program at VIMS, Leggett now serves as the Virginia Oyster Restoration and Fisheries Scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  At CBF he focuses on reversing the long-term decline in the Bay’s oyster stocks, while working to inform the public of the role these shellfish can play in restoring the Bay’s health.

In addition to his position at CBF, Leggett runs his own shellfish farming business—aptly called Chessie Seafood and Aquafarms—where he harvests upwards of 100,000 oysters a year for local restaurants.  “I like to carve my living out of the Bay,” he says. “Working on the Bay has always come naturally to me and the thought of making a living out of it has always intrigued me.”

Leggett says his predecessors in the oyster aquaculture business taught him a lot through their knowledge and motivation and helped him realize that this is something he is good at and that he loves to do. “I’ve evolved and grown with the industry, and I’m going to keep on plugging along.”

After earning his Master’s degree, Leggett spent 1 year in the Ph.D. program at VIMS before realizing his true love was being on the water. He spent the following years learning how to become a commercial fisherman—a career that he pursued for nearly 20 years. “As a waterman I taught myself how to crab, fish, and oyster by just watching others, listening, and ultimately learning the trade.”

Leggett says the time he spent as a student at VIMS helped prepare him for his various career endeavors since his graduation. “Obtaining an interdisciplinary degree in marine science and having the opportunity to work with some of the most respected scientists in the world helped point me in the direction of my true calling—being out on the Bay.”

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