Virginia officials say oyster poaching has become epidemic in the Chesapeake Bay.

Last year, the Virginia Marine Police logged 240 violations for illegal oyster harvesting. Some were for harvesting oysters intended to restore the bay's ailing stocks from protected sanctuaries, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

Police and shellfish experts say several factors have contributed to the increase in poaching, including a weak economy and fewer patrol officers on the water.

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