- The Washington Times - Friday, September 3, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — The nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation this week echoed a call by the National Academy of Science for more extensive research before Maryland environmental officials scatter fertile, nonnative oysters into the estuary.

Foundation scientists, who are publicizing their position to lawmakers as the state moves toward introducing nonnative oysters, now say at least three more years of research on Crassostrea ariakensis is needed. It’s a timeline that far exceeds the state’s tentative deadline 11 months from now.

Not enough research has been conducted on the species for an introduction to be made responsibly, scientists say in a position statement released Wednesday to lawmakers on the House Environmental Matters Committee.

“The issue at the core of our position is really looming more and more and is going to be the crux of the debate in the coming months,” foundation chief scientist Bill Goldsborough said. “That’s the question of whether we know enough about this to make a responsible public policy decision to introduce.”

The answer, for now, is no, Mr. Goldsborough said.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is steaming toward the completion of an environmental impact statement assessing the liabilities of bringing in ariakensis, which are native to China. The report is set to be complete in July.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., and DNR officials have said they won’t go through with distributing nonnative oysters in the Bay if the research deems them unsafe.

But Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, has made it clear that he believes ariakensis are the Bay’s last hope for oyster restoration.

“We’re going to address the concerns,” of the foundation and the National Academy of Science, assistant DNR Secretary Mike Slattery said Thursday. “There is some disagreement on how long the research will take to do that. We’re hoping to bring enough focus to it and enough manpower to be able to address those questions sooner rather than later.”

DNR is contracting with scientists in Maryland and Virginia to find out if ariakensis would bring in parasites or diseases or would overtake native Chesapeake oysters.

Ariakensis, which have been farmed in the Pacific waters off Oregon for decades, are larger than the Bay’s native oysters and reportedly grow faster.

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