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Chesapeake's Asian Oyster Plans Come to an End

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MARYLAND, US - Asian oysters will not be allowed in the Chesapeake Bay, state and federal officials announced yesterday, seemingly ending a five-year flirtation with the idea that a Chinese bivalve could resurrect one of America's most famous shellfish grounds.

The decision, made by Maryland, Virginia and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, means that the species Crassostrea ariakensis should disappear from the Chesapeake, said David A. Fahrenthold, a Washington Post Staff Writer. About a million of the Asian oysters are in the water at experimental shellfish "farms" in Virginia, but those will come out in the next month, officials said.

But a fundamental problem remains unsolved, wrote Mr Fahrenthold. The Chesapeake needs an oyster species, both to filter its water and support watermen's communities. Now, it doesn't have much of one. The native oyster species is down to 1 percent of its historic peak population, decimated by overfishing and disease.

Yesterday, officials pledged to spend millions trying to bring it back. But they said the oyster population is unlikely to ever return to what it was.

"We cannot guarantee success," said Col. Dionysios Anninos, the Corps of Engineers official who oversaw the decision. "But we'll give it a hell of a go."

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