April 7, 2009

States, Army Corps Say No to Asian Oysters

Center for a Livable Future

Center for a Livable Future

Non-native oysters will not be introduced to the Chesapeake Bay, state officials and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced yesterday. For the past five years, state officials in Virginia and Maryland, along with the Corps of Engineers, have conducted a $17 million study on the feasibility of introducing the Crassostrea ariakensis species to the Bay to rebuild the oyster population. An article in today’s Washington Post quoted Roger Mann, a professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, who discussed the implications of introducing the non-native species. “The problem is, with all of this, that you don’t really know until you do the experiment. Once you’ve done it, it’s too late.”

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) applauded the decision in a news release issued yesterday. “This decision supports native oyster restoration and says no to further testing of Asian oysters unless it is conducted with no risk to the Bay,” said Roy Hoagland, CBF Vice President for Environmental Protection and Restoration. “Governors O’Malley (MD) and Kaine (VA) and Col. Anninos (Army Corps) have correctly recognized the dangers that non-native oysters pose as well as the enormous potential for restoration of the native population.”

Dr. Sharon Nappier, a Center for a Livable Future (CLF) researcher, provided testimony at an Army Corp hearing and published op-eds in several publications, urging federal and state officials to stay away from the introduction of non-native species in the Chesapeake Bay. Nappier, whose research on the Bay’s oyster population was supported by CLF, noted the introduction of non-native oysters into the bay may present greater public health consequences for consumers than native oysters. “The ecological benefits provided by the (non native) oyster’s filtration efficiency may have harmful repercussions for the health of consumers,” she warns.

A study conducted by Dr. Nappier while at the Bloomberg School of Public Health showed that non-native oysters were statistically more likely to harbor human viruses than native oysters. The oyster research was published in the November 2008 issue of the American Society of Microbiology’s peer-reviewed research journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

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