Officials with Maryland, Virginia, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC) have decided against introducing Asian oysters as a way to restore the Bay’s degraded oyster population, citing “unacceptable ecological risks.” The states will instead focus on native oyster restoration.
The native-only restoration strategy will be published in the final Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), which is due to be published in late June.
The official statement released by the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration Executive Committee -- which includes the Corps, the PRFC and the natural resource secretaries from Maryland and Virginia -- reads:
Based on the current state of the science and extensive public discourse, the use of non-native oysters in Chesapeake Bay, its tidal tributaries, and the coastal bays and waters of Maryland and Virginia poses unacceptable ecological risks.
Therefore, it is prudent for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia and Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC) to adopt a native oyster only preferred alternative for purposes of the PEIS. In selecting the native oyster alternative, the Corps, together with the cooperating federal agencies, the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia and PRFC will remain fully committed to using only the native oyster to work towards revitalizing oyster restoration and aquaculture in meeting commercial and ecological goals. Furthermore, the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia and PRFC will work towards implementing biologically and economically sustainable harvesting measures for the public oyster fishery. Finally, the Corps, together with the cooperating federal agencies, the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia and PRFC will pursue the establishment of realistic metrics, accountability measures and a performance based adaptive management methodology for all efforts in revitalizing the native oyster for purposes of achieving commercial and ecological goals.
The governors of Maryland and Virginia praised the committee’s decision.
"I am extremely pleased that we have reached an agreement on a preferred oyster restoration alternative, one that will not threaten the Bay's already stressed ecosystem,” said Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. “We look forward to collaborating with our partners in Virginia to use new science developed through this extraordinary study to support both the ecological restoration of our native oyster and the revitalization of our oyster industry with emphasis on new aquaculture opportunities."
"While we have seen certain promise in ariakensis aquaculture from the Virginia Seafood Council trials over the past seven years, we agree -- based on the recommendations of our Virginia Institute of Marine Science -- that moving forward we should focus primarily on restoring the Bay's native oyster," said Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine.
The full Oyster Restoration PEIS Executive Committee is made up of the Norfolk District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the secretaries of natural resources for Maryland and Virginia, working with the PRFC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Visit the Corps’ website for more information about the Oyster Restoration PEIS.