Skip to comments.Washington to Determine if Oysters are an Endangered Species
Posted on 07/09/2005 12:49:55 PM PDT by Our_Man_In_Gough_Island
Red tide may be the least of Cape shellfishermen's worries this summer.
In May, the National Marine Fisheries Service decided that the Eastern, or American, oyster is a candidate for endangered species status based on a petition they received in January.
The agency has until Jan. 11, 2006, to decide. Fisheries service spokeswoman Teri Frady said yesterday her agency was in the process of putting together a panel of experts to study the issue.
Eastern oysters are harvested in New England and on the Cape, accounting for more than $1.2 million in revenue for the Cape and islands aquaculture industry in 2003, more than any other shellfish species.
The endangered species listing could prohibit harvesting any oysters from Louisiana to Maine. Other options would be less restrictive, such as setting lower harvest levels, or tightening regulations that protect habitat, food supply and water quality.
''Including the American oyster on the endangered species list would come as another major setback for the Massachusetts shellfish industry, just as they are recovering from the devastation of the red tide outbreak,'' state Sen. Robert O'Leary, D-Barnstable, wrote in a press release earlier this week.
On Wednesday, the state Legislature passed a resolution sponsored by O'Leary and state Rep. Shirley Gomes, R-Harwich, objecting to the listing. Rhode Island and New York have passed similar resolutions.
The endangered species petition was submitted by W. Dieter Busch of Ecosystem Initiatives Advisory Services, a Maryland-based consulting firm he founded. It contends that overfishing, loss of habitat, and diseases have placed the Eastern oyster at or near extinction.
Busch, a former U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service scientist, cited federal oyster data that shows that annual landings along the Atlantic coast have declined to less than 2 percent of their historical amounts. The Chesapeake Bay area, he noted, is at 0.2 percent of its historical landings numbers. The petition also attempts to stop the introduction of Asian oysters, which are being studied as a disease-resistant replacement for the Eastern oyster in the Chesapeake, where the oyster population was almost wiped out by diseases in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The endangered species petition comes just as oysters have become an ''it'' food, with the kind of appreciation and connoisseurship assigned to fine wines. Within the last few years, a niche market has arisen with name recognition for flagship species from places such as Wellfleet, Duxbury, Menemsha and Katama Bay.
Robert ''Skid'' Rheault is one of those who have cultivated distinction with his Moonstone oysters from Point Judith, R.I.
Rheault is president of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, which has members from Florida to Maine. He said it's been hard to cultivate interest among aquaculturists and shellfishermen to battle the endangered-species listing.
''Everybody I've talked to said it's ridiculous, that it can't fly, but it's a political process that could come to pass,'' Rheault said.
He said it would ''wreak havoc'' on oyster markets with consumers afraid to eat an endangered species. He said it would also be a regulatory nightmare because it would be hard to distinguish between wild and farm-raised oysters if just the wild harvest were banned or cut back.
Michael Hickey, chief shellfish biologist for the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, said his agency supports the resolution by O'Leary and Gomes and will provide comment to the U.S. fisheries services. He does not believe the oyster will qualify for endangered species status.
Comparisons with the huge harvests of a century ago are no longer valid, he said, because so much habitat has been dredged for harbors or marinas. Landings numbers in Massachusetts have stayed relatively stable for the past 20 years, he said.
''Overall, the resource here is in pretty good shape,'' he said.
Today the Oysters, perhaps tomorrow the citizens of the U.S. (but I doubt it)
CLOSE THE FRICKEN BORDERS!
If those oysters get within a 1/4 mile of my brothers they will be extinct.
CLOSE THE FRICKEN BORDERS!
I have seen...
CLOSE THE FRICKEN BORDERS!
a lot today.
So what does this mean, I'll have to start doing a catch and release thing instead of a catch and cocktail sauce thing?
Maybe Fat Teddy and John Kerry don't want to have to look at oystermen when they're out tooling around Nantucket Sound on their yachts.
Poor Eastern oysters, we hardly knew ye.
In fact, I never knew ye and would rather eat raw snot, but that's beside the point.)
Tell ya what, how about just the cocktail-party Liberals in blue states quit wasting them on themselves.
Oughta be plenty left for me.
What about chickens?
Didn't I hear that chickens are an endangered species?
It could provide jobs for some otherwise unemployable parasites.
Not a whole lot more than clams.
or is this just a case of faulty and agenda driven science.
Bingo. It's pretty hard to call something endangered when it is a steady, annual 1.2 million dollar industry, and they retail for something around $1.00 to $1.50 each.
It's always the good stuff that finds its way to endangerment. Why not cabbage? Or scrapple? I would be willing to do my part to ensure their survival.
Does any other animal apart from man eat those snotty things?
Salts - $7.95 a dozen on the half shell.
What that support, ten boats?
Oystermen in the Chesapeake Bay have been clamoring for something to be done for the last 20 years, they didnt pay any attention. Now when New England has a problem all of a sudden they look into it. I guess now we know where the political power is.
Chesapeake Bay oysters are an endengered species because of a disease not because of overharvesting. Proper Harvesting of oysters actually helps them ,it cleans the sediment from the beds and brings them to the top of the sand where they can breathe. I remember when there were 1600 oystermen in St Mary's County, Md. , now there are less than 50. The overharvesting has pretty much taken care of itself here as the oysters have dissappeared because the disease.
Certainly a ban on gathering oysters will not save them it will only allow sediment to build up on the hard bottom they take hold on and these oyster beds will dissappear.
I hope some of these brilliant people who run things actually ask a waterman what needs to be done as most are full of crap when it comes to oysters.
Boats? Easterners use boats to harvest oysters? We just wait for low tide and walk out and get them. Of course, that's recreational oystering...
The $ 1.2 million is the figure for Massachusetts (which the home state of the Cape Cod Times). The determination applies not just to that paper's state but to all states from Maine to Texas, some of which ( like Maryland) have very large oyster and shellfish industries.
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