Virginia: Industry group seeks another round with non-native oysters

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
1 March 2007, at 12:00am

VIRGINIA - With the blessing of scientists, an industry group wants to grow non-native oysters in Virginia's tidal waters again this year.

The ariakensis oysters are reared in hatcheries from a strain of shellfish that are resistant to diseases that have caused an extraordinary decline in the Chesapeake Bay's native oyster population.

Under the industry plan, 15 growers would cultivate a total of 1.5 million ariakensis oysters in 15 sites in the bay, its tributaries and the seaside of the Eastern Shore.

As in five previous Virginia Seafood Council trials with the species, each oyster would be sterilized to guard against accidental reproduction.

Thirteen growers are wrapping up the most recent trial, which included 1.3 million of the hardy shellfish. By regulation, the oysters in the current trial must be harvested by the end of May. The Seafood Council wants to begin raising its next batch of ariakensis oysters June 1.

Nine growers involved in 2005 netted an average profit of $10,000 with the non-native oysters, selling the shellfish to local shucking houses, restaurants and consumers.

Tuesday, a public hearing on the Seafood Council proposal before the Virginia Marine Resources Commission generated no criticism.

Commissioner Steve Bowman will make a decision between March 30 and April 30.

Source: Virginia Wire