Is this xenophobic protectionism or smart ecology? Opinions differ.
The native Eastern Oyster, reduced 99% by overfishing and disease, is in trouble despite officials spending many millions of dollars in efforts to bring them back.
Asian oysters were touted as a possible ecological replacement by some, in hopes that they would help filter the water and provide income to watermen who could farm and sell the oysters.
According to the Washington Post:
Today's announcement also marks the end of discussions over the past few weeks, which began with Virginia officials for Asian oyster farms, Maryland officials against them, and the Corps in the middle. A number of federal agencies and environmental groups had also weighed in against the Asian oyster, saying the risk of it escaping and playing havoc in the Chesapeake's battered ecosystem was too high.
Could it be that it's time for ecological replacement therapy in the Chesapeake? Shall we hold out for species purity even where the need for oysters is great and the native species seems unable to mount a comeback? I don't know, but I wonder.
Introduced species are usually a problem, even when well-intentioned. But can we hold out for native species entirely in a warming world in desperate need of ecosystem services like those oysters can provide? I have a feeling this is an issue that will receive more, not less debate in the future.
For now, let's cheer for oyster restoration projects, in the hope that the native Chesapeake oyster will come roaring back. Tweet