Corps of Engineers to Rule on Asian Oyster Farming in the Bay
February 27th, 2009 by WY Daily Staff
The Virginia Seafood Council wants to import and then grow millions of Asia oysters in the Chesapeake Bay and along Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation says the impact on native Chesapeake oysters could be disastrous. Now it’s up to the Army Corps of Engineers.
The request to import the oysters was made on February 24th, but there will be no immediate decision, according to Col. Dionysios Anninos, commander of the Norfolk District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The request is part of the Seafood Council’s strategy to restore oysters to the Bay.
Anninos, who has permitted Virginia seafood businesses to experiment with raising batches of the sterilized Asian oysters, has said he wants better estimates of the risk that the sterile Asian oysters might recover their ability to reproduce, which would dramatically impact native oysters.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are among the groups who have identified the Asian species of oyster as a threat to native stocks.
The CBF argues that Asian oysters are more vulnerable to predators and threaten the extinction of native Chesapeake oysters by disrupting native reproduction, “competing for space, and serving as a host for disease.” Their assertion is that the seafood industry should focus their energies and money on restoring the native oyster alone.
Speculation surfaced last week that the long-running dispute over how to bring back the bay’s disease-ravaged oysters would soon be settled. Virginia’s natural resources secretary was said to be leaning toward letting oyster growers use chemically sterilized versions of disease-resistant Asian bivalves, while Maryland officials side with environmentalists and most biologists in opposing it as too risky.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also opposed to the proposal, and has made it clear they will challenge the Army Corps’ decision if they approve the request.