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Rays run oyster project awry (Govt Planning at its best)
The Virginian-Pilot ^ | 8/24/2004 | SCOTT HARPER

Posted on 08/24/2004 2:18:51 AM PDT by leadhead

The first strike this summer in a much-anticipated “carpet-bombing” campaign to restore native oysters in the Chesapeake Bay has turned out to be a big dud.

One million baby oysters, costing about $78,000, were scattered on an artificial reef in June in the Great Wicomico River , near the Virginia-Maryland border, and almost all of the transplants were devoured in one day by a school of cow-nosed rays.

The kite-shaped cousins of sting rays, also known as skates or bullfish, are found commonly in the Bay during summer months.

“We didn’t really know anything about the cow-nosed ray,” said Doug Martin , project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers in Norfolk, lead agency for the multimillion-dollar oyster initiative. “It kind of surprised us.”

Bay fishermen, scientists and watermen know all about rays and their appetite for shellfish, and the lapse in planning has renewed questions about why the Army Corps, with little experience in oyster biology, is heading a major oyster restoration project.

Also, several experts in Virginia and Maryland had warned the corps in 2002 that predators might wreak havoc with its plans for spreading tens of millions of “culchless” oysters onto man-made reefs in an attempt to jump-start a biological comeback.

Culchless oysters are those grown on shards of old oyster shells, rather than on heavier, whole shells. They therefore are considered less protected from predators. Maryland, for example, does not use cul chless oysters in its own restoration program, in part because of their susceptibility to being eaten by predators .

“Rays generally can more easily lift these lighter, culchless oysters” to their powerful mouths, said Richard Takacs , a fisheries biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Annapolis, Md. The corps spent almost $2 million this year to launch its oyster program in the Great Wicomico River, located on Virginia’s Northern Neck peninsula, between the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers. The Great Wicomico is supposed to be a demonstration project for the “carpet-bombing” theory of oyster recovery, in which deadly diseases are overwhelmed with massive plantings of genetically engineered baby oysters, or seed. In response to the kill, on June 16 , the corps temporarily halted seed planting, but will try again this fall, spending an additional $1.8 million to experiment with several safeguards against hungry rays, Martin said.

For example, t he corps has constructed a large metal fence around a man-made reef, with an eye toward building similar fencing elsewhere – an option never tried before in field biology. It also has placed covered trays of baby oysters on the reefs, an alternative that some scientists fear may squish aquatic life trapped underneath. The feeding frenzy in the Great Wicomico is an inauspicious beginning to an ambitious project in the works for almost two years. Congress has fueled much of the effort with millions of dollars for reef construction and for growing millions of baby oysters.

York River Yacht Haven , a marina and oyster farm near Gloucester, won a contract worth as much as $10 million to supply the corps with disease-resista nt seed for at least the next three years .

The corps did not publicly disclose its loss of so many oysters in the Great Wicomico, or its response to the rays, until asked about the episode last week by The Virginian-Pilot.

Each measuring about 3 feet wide and brownish in color, cow-nosed rays “are going to be another issue we have to deal with,” Martin said. “We’re learning as we go with all of this.”

He said other planned oyster-recovery projects, including those in Hampton Roads in the Lynnhaven, Nansemond and Elizabeth rivers, will likely require expensive “bio-secur ity” measures as well. “Our costs are definitely going to be higher,” Martin said. “But we don’t really have a choice.”

Over the past several decades, diseases known as MSX and Dermo , along with overfishing and lost habitat, have nearly wiped out oyster stocks in the Chesapeake Bay, where they once were huge money-makers and key filters of pollutants.

State and federal governments have struggled for years to turn this tide, with limited success. Seafood merchants are hopeful now that a foreign species from Asia, known as ariakensis or Suminoe, can survive MSX and Dermo and repopulate the Bay.

The Asian oyster is being tested in the Bay today, but some scientists and environmental groups fear unforeseen consequences from introducing an exotic species without years of study.

Rob Brumbaugh , a fisheries biologist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Virginia, said a population increase of rays has become a major obstacle to oyster recovery in certain waters, rivaling MSX and Dermo.

He has seen the marine animals “absolutely hammering” oysters on artificial reefs in the Lynnhaven River. But, oddly, the rays will leave oysters on the other side of those same reefs alone.

The experience of the Great Wicomico should not deter the corps or the cause of native oyster restoration.

“You’re never going to prevent predation, but you can expand restoration,” Brumbaugh said.

“I hope people don’t come away from this saying, 'Well, all we’re doing with all this money is feeding cow-nosed rays,’ ” he said.

Reach Scott Harper at 446-2340 or at scott.harper@pilotonline.com


TOPICS: Government; US: Maryland
KEYWORDS: armycorp; coastalenvironment; environment; oysters; planning; waste
If it fails the first time for good and obvious reasons, do it again with more money the same way.
1 posted on 08/24/2004 2:18:51 AM PDT by leadhead
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To: leadhead
Note to self.....

start a farm.....

Forget to erect the fox fence

2 posted on 08/24/2004 2:22:45 AM PDT by RIGHT IN LAS VEGAS
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To: leadhead

You know what they say about oysters.


3 posted on 08/24/2004 2:25:55 AM PDT by chemicalman (Finally an answer for the prisoner problem at Abu Ghraib: Don't take any.)
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To: leadhead

Anyone know why the Army Corps of Engineers is involved in this, or what legislation is funding this?


4 posted on 08/24/2004 2:26:56 AM PDT by rotstan
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To: leadhead

Rush needs to see this. Hilarious!


5 posted on 08/24/2004 2:47:49 AM PDT by MonroeDNA (Hillary was in charge of the FBI files, which went into a data base: WHoDB. Genious hackers, expose)
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To: leadhead

your tax dollars herd at work feeding the hungry - rays. LOL~!


6 posted on 08/24/2004 3:34:05 AM PDT by camle (keep your mind open and somebody will fill it with something for you))
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To: camle

'Well, all we’re doing with all this money is feeding cow-nosed rays’ oops I said it.


7 posted on 08/24/2004 3:50:45 AM PDT by SampleMan
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To: SampleMan

but everybody loves ray - doncha know?:-)


8 posted on 08/24/2004 4:05:28 AM PDT by camle (keep your mind open and somebody will fill it with something for you))
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To: SampleMan
“I hope people don’t come away from this saying, 'Well, all we’re doing with all this money is feeding cow-nosed rays,’ ” he said.

Well, what exactly do you 'hope' people will say about your $78,000 ray feeding program?

Here is what I hope. I hope government can get out of things they have no business being in in the first place. And when they are involved with do-gooder projects that they shouldn't be, I should at least hope that they are competent. I guess both of our hopes are going unrealized.

9 posted on 08/24/2004 4:06:12 AM PDT by blanknoone (Republicans need to acknowledge that campaign finance reform failed and start setting up 527s.)
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To: chemicalman

Sure do, but I couldn't get him to eat them!!


10 posted on 08/24/2004 4:10:03 AM PDT by Sacajaweau (God Bless Our Troops!!)
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To: leadhead

I very surprised that the governmaent didn't just rename this The Skate Enhancement Program and celebrate it as an unqualified success.


11 posted on 08/24/2004 4:15:55 AM PDT by PBRSTREETGANG
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To: camle
...everybody loves ray...

Cow-nosed Ray?

12 posted on 08/24/2004 4:18:44 AM PDT by PBRSTREETGANG
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To: leadhead

'O Oysters,' said the Carpenter,
'You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none --
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.


13 posted on 08/24/2004 4:29:39 AM PDT by jimfree (We serve no whine before its time.)
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To: PBRSTREETGANG

he does look kinda hungry.... i hear he digs seafood


14 posted on 08/24/2004 4:31:46 AM PDT by camle (keep your mind open and somebody will fill it with something for you))
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To: leadhead
“We didn’t really know anything about the cow-nosed ray,” said Doug Martin , project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers in Norfolk, lead agency for the multimillion-dollar oyster initiative.

Well, Dougie, you know one thing now: cow-nosed rays really think baby oysters are tasty morsels.

15 posted on 08/24/2004 5:08:11 AM PDT by Catspaw
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To: leadhead

I have nothing to do with this.


16 posted on 08/24/2004 5:10:24 AM PDT by Oystir
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To: leadhead
“I hope people don’t come away from this saying, 'Well, all we’re doing with all this money is feeding cow-nosed rays,’ ” he said.

Perhaps Mr. Brumbaugh would care, then to elaborate on exactly what they were doing. Sounds like 78K of chum, to me.

17 posted on 08/24/2004 5:39:33 AM PDT by wbill
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To: leadhead

What happened to the oysters in the first place?


18 posted on 08/24/2004 5:45:53 AM PDT by Sam Cree (Democrats are herd animals)
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To: farmfriend

ping


19 posted on 08/24/2004 6:52:32 AM PDT by Libertarianize the GOP (Make all taxes truly voluntary)
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To: Sam Cree
I wonder what is the name of this species of oysters ? Were those "hollow oysters", crassostrea gigas ?
20 posted on 08/24/2004 8:05:45 AM PDT by Atlantic Friend
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To: leadhead

Coast Oyster Co farms oysters here on Humboldt Bay on a large scale. The ray problem was so bad they had to go to raising them on lines suspended from racks.


21 posted on 08/24/2004 8:14:09 AM PDT by tubebender (If I had known I would live this long I would have taken better care of myself...)
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To: tubebender
Mmmmmmm.... cow nosed ray...

22 posted on 08/24/2004 8:18:20 AM PDT by evets (God bless president George W. Bush)
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To: leadhead; abbi_normal_2; Ace2U; adam_az; Alamo-Girl; Alas; alfons; alphadog; amom; AndreaZingg; ...
Rights, farms, environment ping.
Let me know if you wish to be added or removed from this list.
I don't get offended if you want to be removed.
23 posted on 08/24/2004 1:21:21 PM PDT by farmfriend ( In Essentials, Unity...In Non-Essentials, Liberty...In All Things, Charity.)
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To: farmfriend

BTTT!!!!!!!


24 posted on 08/24/2004 1:26:52 PM PDT by E.G.C.
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To: leadhead; farmfriend

Now you can call me Ray or you can call me Jay but you doesnt have to call me cow nose ray :-)

25 posted on 08/25/2004 6:49:38 AM PDT by freepatriot32 (today it was the victory act tomorrow its victory coffee, victory cigarettes...)
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