Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Predator extermination in the ocean?

We're about to go after a new ocean villian, the cownose ray. These shy creatures have an unfortunate fondness for oysters, and we humans can't stand the competition.

Now that we've dredged, polluted, and otherwise plundered oyster reefs, we are targeting a natural predator that has no guilt in the decline of oysters. Why? Because cownose rays had the audacity to eat our "restoration" projects. Apparently, we're the only ones allowed to exterminate oysters.

Naturally, baby oysters tend to settle on shell mounds, and the rays can't touch that. But restoration projects have sprinkled naked baby oysters into the Chesapeake Bay, and rays simply did what came naturally, munching them up. Fishery managers have responded with an urgent call to find markets for cownose rays, so we can make money while getting rid of this "pest." Cownose ray medallions anyone?

Haven't we learned our lesson from previous attempts to exterminate predators? The results aren't always the simple expectation of kill predators and get more prey. Cascading ecosystem effects can produce surprising results, such as wolf reintroduction producing better streamside habitats. Who knows what surprise will pop up if we eliminate cownose rays?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

i don't care sorry, and i doubt anyone does. however, i agree in the sense that we try to often to take full command of the environment without considering the consequences (however i think civilization could survive the extinction of oysters).

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