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Another Asian Oyster Trial Wanted in Chesapeake Bay

VIRGINIA State and federal officials are being asked to approve the largest trial for growing Asian oysters. It will be the greatest undertaking for the industry in Chesapeake Bay since testing oysters began in 2000.

A report in the Daily Times says that the Virginia Seafood Council wants to grow 1.3 million sterile baby oysters of the Crassostrea ariakensis variety, beginning in June.

The council’s proposal goes before a public hearing tomorrow at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission meeting in Newport News. It must also be approved by the Army Corps of Engineers. The oysters would have to be removed by June 1, 2009.

Disease has been killing off Virginia’s native oyster, whose demise has crippled the bay’s natural filtering capability. Asian oysters aren’t prone to the diseases, but scientific concerns have held up efforts to grow them commercially.

Scientists worry that the non-native species could bring unintended consequences.

Tommy Mason of Mason Seafood in Chincoteague has grown Asian oysters in every trial and will grow 100,000 more this year. He says that his Asian oysters have produced nearly double the yield of the natives and he has no problem marketing the Asian product. He sells almost all in Chincoteague for shucking and to be served on the half-shell.

The baby asian oysters are made sterile at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science so they can’t reproduce.

No more trials were planned after 2007. But last year, federal officials said they wanted more environmental studies. A draft environmental impact statement by the Army Corps of Engineers is due by June and a final report could be completed by the end of the year.

View the Daily Times story by clicking here.