Virginia OKs Asian Oyster Plan


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
March 26, 2008

Virginia officials yesterday endorsed plans to grow 1.3 million Asian oysters in state waters this June, despite objections from federal environmental agencies.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted unanimously for the proposal from the Virginia Seafood Council, a trade group, to place the species in cages and bags in waters off the Eastern Shore and in Chesapeake Bay.

The Asian species -- also known as ariakensis or the Chinese oyster -- grows faster than and tastes similar to the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) but is not as susceptible to diseases that have nearly wiped out native stocks in state waters.

Before the oysters are deployed, the director of the state marine commission, Steve Bowman, must approve the project, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers in Norfolk. Smaller experiments have been approved in recent years.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration urged the commission to reject the experiment, citing concerns about the oysters escaping and spreading disease.

Roger Mann, an oyster expert and researcher with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper that the proposed trial, like others before it, is "not without risk."

"There is a risk. It's very small, and it's something we've accepted in the past," he said.

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