Letters Requesting a Study on Non-Native Oysters in the Chesapeake Bay
Baker, W., Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Letter requesting a study on nonnative oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, 9 January 2002.
Esher, D., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Letter requesting the study on nonnative oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, 9 January 2002.
Mikulski, B., U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies. Letter requesting assistance in funding for the study on nonnative oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, 22 January 2002.
Swanson, A.P., Chesapeake Bay Commission. Letter and resolution requesting the study on nonnative oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, 17 January 2002.
CHESAPEAKE BAY FOUNDATION
Resource Protection and Restoration
Wayne A. Mills
T. Gaylon Layfield, III
Aileen Bowdoin Train
William C. Baker
EX OFFICIO TRUSTEES
Governor James S. Gilmore, III
Governor Parris N. Glendening
Governor Mark Schweiker
Mayor Anthony Williams
Hal C.B. Clagett – Clagett Trustee
Joanne S. Berkley – Bay Care Chapter
Maurice P. Lynch, Ph.D. – York Chapter
Myrtha L. Allen
Donald F. Boesch
George W. Brown, Ph.D.
D. Keith Campbell
J. Carter Fox
Robert M. Freeman
Alan R. Griffith
Jack S. Griswold
Susan Taylor Hansen
Edward M. Holland
Virginia R. Holton
H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest
Janice L. Marshall
H. Turney McKnight
W. Tayloe Murphy, Jr.
Blaine T. Phillips
George G. Phillips
Robert M. Pinkard
Arnold I. Richman
Marie W. Ridder
Willcox Ruffin, Jr. M.D.
Truman T. Semans
Edmund A. Stanley, Jr.
Thomas H. Stoner
James C. Wheat, III
John R. Whitmore
Louisa C. Duemling
T. Marshall Duer, Jr.
C.A. Porter Hopkins
Charles McC. Mathias
Godfrey A. Rockefeller
Russell C. Scott
William W. Warner
January 9, 2002
Ms. Morgan Gopnik,
Director Ocean Studies Board
National Academy of Sciences
2001 Wisconsin Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20007
Dear Ms. Gopnik:
On behalf of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, I want to formally request that the Ocean Studies Board undertake at its earliest convenience a study of the oyster Crassostrea ariakensis and its proposed introduction into Chesapeake Bay. Recent trials with this non-native species have suggested it would thrive in Chesapeake Bay waters, and while industry support for its use is strong and growing, little is known about the ecological risks that an introduction would carry. Most institutions, agencies and oyster interests in the Chesapeake area agree that a responsible resolution of this issue should start with a thorough and independent technical review. The National Academy of Sciences is best suited to carry out this work.
Oyster restoration is considered one of the most important aspects of the broad effort to save the Chesapeake Bay. Substantial public support exists for various programs to rebuild reef habitat and restock the native oyster, Crassostrea virginica. However, C. virginica experiences high disease mortality in much of the Bay and will require many years of stocking and selective pressure to develop disease resistance before large reef populations are realized. Recent research by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science suggests that C. ariakensis grows faster and survives disease better than the native oyster. As a result, many in the oyster industry advocate using this non-native oyster to support either an aquaculture industry based on sterile triploids or a public fishery based on naturalized populations of reproductive animals released into the Bay. The potential economic benefits are great for this depressed industry, and pressure on public officials to move in this direction is building. Indeed, the prospect of a hardier oyster as a tool for Bay restoration is tantalizing.
Philip Merrill Environmental Center
6 Herndoii Avenue, Annapolis, Maryland 21403 • 410-268-8816, fax 410-268-687
The introduction of a non-native species is not a trivial act, and it carries potential repercussions for the entire east coast. At the very least, public officials must have reasonable assurance that adverse impacts are unlikely or are far outweighed by potential benefits. Unfortunately, the current state of knowledge about this oyster is insufficient to support this conclusion. It is not known, for example, whether C. ariakensis would out-compete and eventually eliminate the native oyster, C. virginica. Even using accepted protocols for introduction, it cannot be said at this time what the risk would be that an exotic virus would be introduced that could have disastrous affects on other species such as the blue crab, currently our most valuable fishery.
The need for an independent technical study, therefore, is to describe the state of our knowledge of C. ariakensis, identify key gaps for which research would be required, and assess the risks inherent in utilizing this species to support Chesapeake Bay fisheries. Under the circumstances of impressive initial results with this oyster and resultant political pressure for introduction, the need is urgent. Accordingly, we ask you to give the earliest possible consideration to a study by the Ocean Studies Board to evaluate these issues.
With great appreciation for your time, I am,
UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY REGION III
Chesapeake Say Program Office 410 SEVERN AVENUE ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND 21403
JAN 9 2002
Dr. Brace Alberts
National Academy of Sciences
2101 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20418
Dear Dr. Alberts:
As Acting Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office, I am requesting assistance from the National Academy of Sciences on issues related to the possible establishment of non-native oyster aquaculture in the waters of the Bay. Currently, the species most discussed for such introduction is the Suminoe oyster, or Crassostrea ariakensis.
Oyster management in Chesapeake Bay recently has received considerable attention from established research institutions, state and Federal agencies and the public in the Bay region. In the Chesapeake 2000 agreement, the Chesapeake Bay Program partners (the states of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency representing the Federal government) committed to “…a ten-fold increase in native oysters in the Chesapeake Bay…” by 2010. The partners are developing a strategic plan to reach that objective. One of the significant considerations in that plan must be the high impact of disease mortality on native oyster stocks, as well as the appropriate management of harvest mortality.
Because oyster disease is so prevalent in the Bay, the Virginia General Assembly asked the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences to evaluate the possible role of disease resistant non-native oysters in the revitalization of the oyster industry. Now, based on market-oriented tests, it appears that the non-native Suminoe oyster (Crassostrea ariakensis) could resist the diseases decimating the native oyster, grow faster, and fare well in the market. Indeed, the Virginia Seafood Council is developing a proposal to initiate commercial aquaculture production of C. ariakensis in the Bay within the next couple of years, starting with non-reproductive triploid organisms.
Anticipating a proposal to initiate C. ariakensis aquaculture in the Bay, the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Federal Agencies Committee and others have raised concern over the lack of scientific knowledge which would be necessary for any agency to make an informed decision on such a proposal. For example, there appears to have been little or no study of the organism’s
ecology, including disease hosting, interspecific interactions, potential for hybridization, reef-building capacity, etc, Also, although we are forming an ad hoc review panel comprised of representatives of the Chesapeake Bay Program partners, no independent assessment of the risks posed by the initiation of non-native oyster aquaculture in the waters of the Bay has occurred. At a minimum, we need to have the following broad questions answered:
How effective are institutional, technological, and infrastructure controls to prevent the accidental release of reproductive oysters from aquaculture facilities?
If there is an escapement of reproductive C. ariakensis into the Bay, how will it compete with the native C. virginica?
If C. ariakensis were to escape and reproduce, how will that affect the natural ecosystem and habitat of the Chesapeake Bay?
What is the potential of the Suminoe oyster serving as a reservoir for MSX and Dermo or as a vector for new oyster diseases?
Therefore, recognizing the regional significance of this issue (our actions could affect the ecology of estuaries up and down the U.S. Atlantic Coast), the dire need for guidance in identifying research that would be essential to support an informed decision, and our interest in obtaining an independent evaluation of research results, risk assessment needs, and oyster management options, I am requesting your consideration of a National Academy of Sciences evaluation of these issues, If you are agreeable to considering such an evaluation, I suggest that we could convene a small meeting of interested parties within the next few weeks.
I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. You may contact me at (410) 267-5709 or Mike Fritz at (410) 267-5721.
ROBERT C. BYRD, WEST VIRGINIA, CHAIRMAN
DANIEL K INDUYE, HAWAII
ERNEST F. HOLLINGS, SOUTH CAROLINA
PATRICK J. LEAHY VERMONT
TOM HARKIN, IOWA
BARBARA A. MIKULSKI, MARYLAND
HARRY REID, NEVADA
HEUB KOHL WISCONSIN
PATTY MURRAY, WASHINGTON
BYRON L. DORGAN, NORTH DAKOTA
DIANNE FEINSTEIN, CALIFORNIA
RICHARD J. DURBIN, ILLINOIS
TIM JOHNSON, SOUTH DAKOYA
MARY L. LANDRIEU, LOUISIANA
JACK REED, RHODE ISLAND
TED STEVENS, ALASKA
THAD COCHRAN MISSISSIPIT
ARLEN SPECTER, PENNSYLVANIA
PETE V. DOMENICK, NEW MEXICO
CHRISTOPHER S. BOND, MISSOURI
MITCH McCONNELL, KENTUCKY
CONRAD BURNS, MONTANA
RICHARH C. SHELDY, ALADAMA
JUDD GREGG, NEW HAMPSHIRE
ROBERT F. BENNETT, UTAH
BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL COLORADO
LARRY CRAIG, IDAHO
KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, TEXAS
MIKE DEWINE, OHIO
TERRENCE E. SALIVAIN, STAFF DIRECTOR
STEVEN J. CORTESE, MINORITY STAFF DIRECTOR
United States Senate
COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
WASHINGTON, DC 20510-6025 www.senate.gov/-appropriations
January 22, 2002
The Honorable Christie Whitman
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20460
Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr.
Under Secretary and Administrator
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration U.S. Department of Commerce
14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW Wastington, DC 20230
Dear Administrator Whitman and Admiral Lautenbacher:
I am writing to request that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) help fund a study by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) on the introduction of non-native species oysters into the Chesapeake Bay.
As you know, oyster restoration is one of the most important aspects of efforts to save the Chesapeake Bay. Oysters are critical to both restoring the Bay’s ecosystem and ensuring the economic survival of the Bay’s commercial fisheries. That is why I have consistently worked to provide federal resources, including EPA and NOAA funding, for programs to rebuild reef habitat and restock the native oyster, Crassostrea virginica. These efforts have met with great success.
Now, recent research suggests that a non-native species, Crassostrea ariakensis, may grow faster and survive disease better than the native oyster. Supporters of saving the Bay, including the oyster industry, the watermen, and environmental organizations, agree that we need further information about the potential benefits and impacts of introducing this species into the Bay.
To that end, I request that EPA and NOAA help fund a study by the NAS to further examine these issues. The study is expected to cost approximately $200,000 and be complete within nine months. Representatives of the oyster industry, the watermen, and environmental organizations are currently working with NAS to identify sources of funding for this study, including state and federal resources, and I urge EPA and NOAA to participate in funding this study.
Thank you for your attention to this request. I look forward to working with you on this important issue.
Chesapeake Bay Commission
A tri-state legislative assembly
January 16, 2002
Ms. Morgan Gopnik,
Ocean Studies Board
National Academy of Sciences
2001 Wisconsin Avenue, NW Wastington, DC 20007
Dear Ms. Gopnik:
I am writing on behalf of the Chesapeake Bay Commission to request that the Ocean Studies Board undertake a study of the oyster Crassostrea ariakensis and its proposed introduction into Chesapeake Bay. To amplify the gravity with which we make this request, I am enclosing a resolution adopted by the Commission at its January meeting.
In case you are not familiar with our organization, the Commission is a 21-member tri-state legislative commission created in 1980 to advise the members of the General Assemblies of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania on matters of Baywide concern. The members, mostly legislators from the three states, are responsible for coordinating Bay-related policy across state lines and developing shared solutions.
Oyster restoration is a centerpiece of the Bay restoration effort. Efforts to restore our native species are in full swing, yet despite our reef rebuilding and restocking efforts, the high disease mortality in much of the Bay has hampered progress to restore the native oyster, Crassostrea virginica.
Several years ago, the Virginia General Assembly requested the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS) to analyze the viability of growing a non-native oyster in Chesapeake waters. Their tests of C. ariakensis revealed that the species appears to thrive in the saltier waters of the Bay, grows quickly, compares favorably in taste to the native oyster, and is highly resistant to the oyster diseases common in our region. While industry support for its use is fervent and mounting, little is known about the ecological risks that are posed by the introduction of C. ariakensis in the Chesapeake Bay. There is near universal agreement among Bay-region leaders that a thorough and independent technical review of this proposed introduction is needed. We believe that the National Academy of Sciences is best suited to carry out this work.
Introducing a non-native species is not a decision to be taken lightly. An independent technical study is needed to describe the state of our knowledge, identify research priorities, and assess the risks inherent in utilizing this species to support Chesapeake Bay fisheries.
The Commission, therefore, requests that the Oceans Studies Board make C. ariakensis an immediate priority for study. The Chesapeake Bay Program has liberated $50,000 towards the funding of such a study. Should you agree, we will do everything possible to identify additional sources of money.
Chesapeake Bay Commission
A legislative commission serving Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Resolution Supporting a National Academy of Sciences Evaluation of the Benefits and Risks of Crassostrea ariakensis in the Chesapeake Bay
Adopted January 4, 2002
WHEREAS, the decline of native populations of the Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, in the Chesapeake Bay and other Atlantic coast estuaries has led the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as scientific and fisheries industry organizations, to examine the possible role of disease-resistant, non-native oysters in the revitalization of the oyster industry, and
WHEREAS, trials in Virginia using sterile, tripioid individuals of an Asian oyster species, Crassostrea ariakensis, have shown that it is more resistant to the diseases decimating the native oyster, grows faster, and could fare well in the market, and
WHEREAS, proposals to initiate commercial aquaculture production of C. ariakensis in the Bay, using non-reproductive tripioid organisms, are forthcoming, and
WHEREAS, possible risks associated with unintentional or intentional establishment of reproductive populations of C. ariakensis have been raised, and
WHEREAS, concern has been expressed among many that current scientific knowledge is inadequate to effectively evaluate proposals for the initiation of non-native oyster aquaculture, and
WHEREAS, the history of undesirable consequences of many introductions of marine organisms necessitates a thorough assessment of the impacts (both beneficial and detrimental) of reproducing populations of C. ariakensis, and
WHEREAS, the Commission recognizes the regional and national significance of this issue, and the sense of urgency in addressing issues surrounding C. ariakensis aquaculture and introduction due to the economic, environmental, and social factors involved;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Chesapeake Bay Commission requests that the National Academy of Sciences conduct a study to review current research, evaluate risks and benefits associated with the use of non-native oysters in the Bay, and prioritize additional research needed before a responsible decision on C. ariakensis can be made.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this evaluation should, at minimum, address the following questions:
What are the probable consequences, if any, of introductions of populations of C. ariakensis, either intentional or unintentional, in Atlantic coastal environments?
What are the potential risks, if any, of establishment of reproducing populations?
What procedures could be taken to minimize those risks?
What is the most important research required to reduce the uncertainties in these predictions?
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the Chesapeake Bay Commission requests that the Academy conduct this study in a time-sensitive manner, if possible within one year.