April 4, 2009
Native Oyster is Preferred Approach for Restoration
The decrease in the native Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) in the Chesapeake Bay can be attributed to three major factors: over-harvesting, disease, and habitat loss. Due to the decrease in native oysters, the states of Maryland and Virginia proposed the introduction of a non-native species of oyster (Crassostrea ariakensis) into the Chesapeake Bay.
In response to this proposal, the U.S. Congress directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). A series of alternatives were proposed ranging from taking no action at all, to introducing the non native oysters and discontinuing native oyster restoration.
On April 4, 2009 the federal cooperating agencies including the Service, EPA, and NOAA, the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agreed that a native only approach was the preferred alternative. This preferred alternative is consistent with the Service’s analysis and recommendations.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is extremely pleased with the agreement to move forward with Alternative 8a (native oysters only) as the preferred alternative,” said Leopoldo Miranda, Supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chesapeake Bay Field Office. “The lead and cooperative agencies have worked tirelessly to produce a comprehensive, science based document, which has significantly advanced our understanding of the native oyster, and will enable us to move forward in restoring the ecological and economic role that oysters play in the Bay. The Service is confident that working with all the partners and given the right implementation plans, enough time, and careful management, the Chesapeake Bay native oyster populations will recover."
In addition to the decision, the information gained by this process included the most comprehensive and transparent evaluation of restoration alternatives, which will also provide a sound basis for gauging native oyster restoration success in the future.