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Science or Politics?

Despite all of the scientific evidence that non-native oysters may cause more harm to our Chesapeake Bay oyster population, the Virginia Senate is proposing a resolution to support the Asian oyster introduction.

Should decisions like this be driven by science or politics?

Those who agree that non-native oysters should not be introduced to the Chesapeake Bay include

  • U.S. Department of the Interior,
  • National Oceanographic and Atmosheric Administration (NOAA),
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
  • Chesapeake Bay Program Science and Technology Advisory Committee,
  • Chesapeake Bay Program Citizen's Advisory Committee,
  • Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, 
  • Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, and the
  • Virginia Institute of Marince Science.

    Supporters of the proposal want to introduce sterile Asian oysters into the Bay to build up the oyster fishery. Although the Asian oyster grows quickly and resists diseases affecting the Chesapeake oyster, the science highlights considerable uncertainty on its success. Instead, cultivation of native oysters on sanctuary reefs and in commercial aquaculture operations should be supported. CBF Senior Scientist Bill Goldsborough has said that “the scientific community is generally positive about the prospects for native oyster restoration,” citing numerous successful projects Virginia and Maryland. (see links below)

    What else does the science say? It confirms that the Asian oyster

    • is more vulnerable to predators than the Chesapeake oyster,
    • has a greater sensitivity to the Bay’s low dissolved oxygen levels, and
    • poses a risk of local extinction for Chesapeake species oysters by disrupting its reproduction, competing for space, and serving as a host for disease (yes, the local oysters are susceptible to new diseases introduced by the non-native oyster).

    In addition, it is likely that introduction of sterile oysters will inevitably result in a reproductive population, and that they will spread beyond the boarders of the Chesapeake Bay to disrupt other oyster fisheries.

    If you live in Virginia and want to stop the introduction of the Asian oyster, you can help by sending your senator an e-mail urging him or her to vote "NO" when Senate Joint Resolution 411 comes up for a vote.

    Successful native oyster aquaculture projects include:

  •  a partnership of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and Bevans Oyster Company in Virginia's Yeocomico River;
  • oyster reefs in the Eastern Bay of Maryland, near Kent Island and;
  • oyster restoration efforts in Virginia's Piankatank River and Lynnhaven River (the last is a pdf);


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Science has worked about as well as politics.

George Meredith MD

Restoring the Chesapeake Bay watershed

An estuary must be nourished over the course of its lifetime. Sand, silt, phytoplankton, ocean water phosphorus, marine vertebrates and invertebrates are all essential for the health this estuary. An estuary is a dynamic creature. Not a fortress. An estuary is not to be (shoreline) dredged, bulk headed, shoreline hardened, used as a sanitary sewer over flow drain, cut off, straightened, filled in, used as a storm water conduit, polluted or used as a dump site. These things all adversely affect the clean seawater and sediment necessary to nourish a marine estuary such as the Lynnhaven basin. Nourishment that is normally provided by twice daily tidal cycles.
Expensive, unproven reconstruction of the Chesapeake Bay oyster reefs, while an admirable goal will not, can not restore this precious estuary. Because the underlying errors in man’s alteration in the hydrology and sediment migration of the Lynnhaven basin be unchanged.
Fortunately, negative alterations of marine estuaries can be counter balanced by using inexpensive, relatively new technologies. Pre cast concrete box culverts, can be installed under obstructing roadways and rail lines to reestablish tidal flows. The Rolligon Amphibious 4x4 Rotary Ditcher Spreader can economically and expediously recreate tidal creeks.
The hydraulic rotary cutting head pipeline dredge can clear navigation channels while simultaneously rebuilding fringe marshes. All of these techniques represent economical, cost effective methods of estuary reconstruction. As have been/are being, done in South San Francisco Bay, Galveston Bay, much of coastal Louisiana, in Blackwater NWR, Little River Salt Marsh and elsewhere.
The demise of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and its wonderful oysters, finfish, blue crabs, shorebirds, raptors, waterfowl and furbearers are the direct result of the transgressions listed above. And the chances of some Army Corps of Engineers oyster shell/oyster spat dumping program, costing 500 million dollars, of correcting these deficiencies is: zero.
Wake up! Meaningful estuary reconstruction research has already been done. And its got nothing to do with squandering a half a billion borrowed dollars on more non-productive oyster reefs! It’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel!
George Meredith MD


State and federal governments have spent millions of dollars since 1994 trying to rebuild reefs, but they still continue to disappear. Haven't we spent enough our time and enough of the taxpayers money on something that is clearly not working. Isn't it time we start trying something new? In order to restore the oyster population and improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay, I believe that it is time to launch a broad effort to introduce the Asian Crassostrea ariakensis into the bay. The combination of sterilization, predation, and harvest should control the introduced population.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

jra5678 -

Actually, native oyster restoration efforts are working. Reef ball projects in both Maryland and Virginia are having great success. Maryland just increased its number of sanctuary reefs. Oyster aquaculture is proving very successful. CBF released a report earlier this year showing that our native oysters are continuing to build up a resistance to diseases.

As for the Asian oyster, research has shown they pose their own risks. They are more vulnerable to predators and have a greater sensitivity to the Bay's low dissolved oxygen levels. You can find out more about the risks of introducing the Asian oyster in this article from 2009.

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