Chesapeake Bay

Asian Oyster: A Risk We Can't Afford

April 6, 2009

Verdict: Foreign Oysters Will Not Be Allowed in the Chesapeake Bay!

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and The Nature Conservancy applaud the decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the states of Maryland and Virginia to follow the science and reject the introduction of a foreign oyster into the Chesapeake Bay.

The states and federal government will now focus exclusively on restoring the native bay oyster to advance commercial and ecological goals. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Conservancy both hold that restoring our native oyster is the best solution.

The Conservancy thanks all of you who supported native-oyster restoration during the public-comment process. 

Read more about the decision in the Conservancy's April 6th Press Release » 

October 14, 2008

Conservancy Urges Native-Oyster Restoration

The federal government, along with Maryland and Virginia, recently released an Environmental Impact Statement evaluating the potential introduction of an Asian oyster species into the Chesapeake Bay.

The states of Maryland and Virginia and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are now reviewing findings and public comments. A decision is expected in early 2009.  

The Nature Conservancy and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation believe that restoring our native oyster is the best solution — for citizens, for the oyster industry, and for the Chesapeake Bay.

Below, we summarize why introducing a potentially invasive species is a risk we simply cannot afford. 

How would an Asian oyster introduction affect the Chesapeake Bay?

Despite much excellent research, scientists cannot say with certainty that an introduction would be successful, or even provide promised benefits like ecological services and sustainable harvests. And we cannot say for sure that it would be safe.  Research indicates that the Asian oyster is signficantly more likely than our native oyster to harbor human pathogens that cause gastroenteritis.  And research has also shown that the Asian oyster is susceptible to a disease that decimated experimental populations in North Carolina. 

We do know that an introduction would be irreversible.  And even if Asian oysters are sterile when introduced, they would  eventually spread to waters outside the Chesapeake Bay.

Will the Asian oyster become invasive?
Invasive species damage the lands and waters that native plants and animals need to survive. They hurt economies and threaten human well-being.  The estimated damage from invasive species worldwide totals more than $1.4 trillion — five percent of the global economy.

The Asian oyster’s exact impact remains unknown, although scientists agree that it is likely to spread along the Atlantic coast and possibly the Gulf coast as well.

Will the Asian oyster harm native oysters?
The long-term outcome is unpredictable, but recent studies have found that Asian oysters could pose a risk to natives by disrupting their reproduction, competing for habitat and hosting diseases that could further threaten the Chesapeake oyster.

Will it be worth the risks?
Compared with land invasions, marine species are much more difficult and expensive to monitor and control. Once established, they are often impossible to remove.

With the right investments and management decisions by the public and private sectors, we can restore native oyster populations that provide significant ecological and economic benefits — all without the risk of unintended consequences.

What are the alternatives?
The Conservancy and CBF support scaling up native oyster restoration. Aquaculture using our native oyster is a real option to improve the industry and provide watermen new opportunities.  It also has the potential to reduce harvest threats to wild populations.  And native oyster restoration efforts designed to provide ecological benefits have already shown positive results in both Virginia and Maryland and could yield greater success if pursued on a larger scale.

We’re Accountable

The Nature Conservancy makes careful use of your support.

More Ratings