View Full Version : Asian oysters in the Chesapeake?

03-19-2005, 07:29 AM
The debate as to whether Asian oysters should be introduced into the Chesapeake goes on but it appears that our governing bodies may allow this to happen in the near or not too distant future.
Not only is this going to be expensive but there are too many variables which have not really been considered.
Asian oysters do have their pluses....however, when one introduces a foreign species into an area with similar indigenous species, often the native species declines faster than our natives already are ( in this case ). To compensate for this, the initial oysters are supposed to be non reproducing...It would only take a few that are not to create more havoc in a native population already in decline.
Secondly, Asian oysters are suspectable to bonamia (sp) which is a disease, parasite which is extremely virilent and can wipe out thousands within months...our native oyster does not seem to be effected by this one.
So, the gov. spends millions introducing a non-native species only to have the entire number wiped out by a single disease within months...Bonomia has been found in NC at a site where asian oysters have been placed...The entire colony was literally wiped out in 35 days.
As bonomia is water borne...it would only take one tanker unloading its bilges on the way up the Chesapeake to transport this disease to any Chesapeake population of Asian oysters introduced...
And then, we all will be back to the drawing board.

03-19-2005, 07:33 AM
hey, if a multi-state plan limiting pollution and effluents isn't possible, and the prez. nixes any funding or guidance to address the root causes behind the pollution and sedimentation then why not any band aid in the cupboard?

03-19-2005, 07:41 AM
LeeG...In many ways I agree with you...
Maryland has at least initiated and passed the infamous flush tax to repair approx 66 sewage treatment plants dumping into the Chesapeake Bay watershed...Hate to say it, that is more than PA, NY, and VA have done to date...Not sure about DE.
Also, having done work for the USGS.. I was always amazed as to how much I heard the gov. officials bitching about their counterparts in the various states...and visa verse of course...
Too much competition between the state and fed agencies over turf and guess what suffers

03-19-2005, 08:04 AM
Sure... And lets bring in nutrias so people can use them for food and fur coats.... And Zebra mussels...And european elm trees, gypsy moths, and STARLINGS, and about a zillion other really good ideas that really weren't.

03-19-2005, 08:31 AM
I don't see how any worthwhile resources or plan can develop without presidential leadership on the issue. Another ice age will have to come along before all the states upstream see the need to sacrifice for what happens downstream and outside their borders.
It's something to compare priorities,, six billion over ten years is a number I've read for changing the Bays water quality, which is about three weeks of Iraq occupation.


[ 03-19-2005, 08:33 AM: Message edited by: LeeG ]

03-19-2005, 09:04 AM
Lefty...they just got rid of the nutria...or so they say at the Blackwater National Refuge...Took years and am wondering whether the feds really did...

[ 03-19-2005, 09:05 AM: Message edited by: uncas ]

03-19-2005, 04:14 PM
As I understand it, the Chesapeake is being killed by pig farmers (pig poop run off) and chemical lawn fertilizers. Seems to me you'd have to fix those to start addressing the real problem(s).

Bob Smalser
03-19-2005, 08:30 PM
No fan of non-native species, I do have to point out that the predominate oyster out here is the Japanese Pacific Oyster introduced in the 1800's after the native Olympia Oysters were overharvested to feed burgeoning California.

The tiny Olympia is still alive and well, however...and is, in fact, still being harvested.

Both species have coexisted since the 1850's with what appears to be minmal environmental effect.

03-20-2005, 06:10 AM
" pig poop " as you call it is a problem on the Neuse River...
There maybe some pig farms in the Ches watershed but not many...Although I heard rumors that Lancaster Co. PA. is going to have some huge pig farms in the not too distant future.
Fertilizer is certainly a problem...Sediment is always a problem...Keep in mind erosion is a naturally occurring action...man has just accelerated the process...Stormwater runnoff and development has helped wither.
There is no one cause for the problems the Chesapeake Bay is having regarding its current status.
We also have a gov. which is now coming up with a new category on stream condition...One which basically states that the river/stream no longer has any chance of recovery and therefore not subject to current regulations. If this ammendment is passed, the entire waterhsed will be in trouble as once calssified as beyond repair so to speak, anything, any factory, any development can be implimented along it..Why, because that stream is too far gone and what the heck...it can't get any worse.

03-20-2005, 08:03 AM
Uncas,,that's what I was going to say,,it's not just poop,,it's people. Lots o' people upstream. One thing you gotta hand to California,,they were able to make big changes for a region,,and some stuff got better considering the huge increases in population. But this multi-state region is a like the planet,,too many territories for singular action,,so the poop has to pile higher.

03-20-2005, 08:19 AM
If you want a good perspective...Find Chesapeake Blues at the library...A book written for non science people...another words clearly stated what many of the problems are...not only gov agencies but non profit environmental organizations as well.
It's well worth a read.
Where I am..Worcester County....is the secnd fastest growing county in the state and we are not even technically on the Chesapeake...

Matt J.
03-21-2005, 08:32 AM
Always a day late and a dollar short...

The problems are people (first and foremost) and their impact; including chicken farms (more prominent in MD than pig farms - far more so), inadequate sewer treatment plants (how did the Centreville town's intentional dumping and fraud get so quiet so fast? where's the goddamn outrage?), lawn fertilizers (every dumbass wants to be like everyone else and compete for boring green yards), and of course, development and destruction.

I am only really familiar with stormwater, since it's my job. The Bay is FUBAR until the housing bubble pops, and people can stop spreading development, IMOO. Stormwater management, quality control, has progressed rather far in the past 10 years, but it's still s politically driven than efficiency and effectiveness are not what they should be.

Asian oysters? Irreversible and unpredictable... CBF put it best. "Just" stop freaking harvesting them!

03-22-2005, 06:42 AM
Matt...come to think of it, you're right...what ever happended to the Centreville treatment plant? Read about the problems ages ago in the Star Democrat...not the best newspaper...just one I picked up on my travels.
Agree with your comments on the Asian Oysters...Gotta remember the llobby pushing for their introduction.

03-22-2005, 07:29 AM
I'm not politically correct regarding non-native species,,yeah kudzu and nutria are a mess but when "they" took out the eucalyptus on Angel Island in the S.F.Bay it went too far. Seeing the horticulturally correct attempt to remove non-native plants on Mt. Tam just turned into another variation on gardening.
Here folks decry Fragmities(sp?) but once I heard it's what grows in southern Iraqs ruined marshes,,well isn't that nice to know? And the non-native cranky swans,,ok they're bad, bad, bad,,,but pretty.
Nature abhors a vacuum,,if cold/flu bugs, genetically engineered plants and pop music can proliferate all over the planet then I have a hard time seeing a non-native species as anything other than nature complementing human sprawl. To presume a non-native plant opportunistically filling a niche is bad,,and humans filling up a watershed is good,,there's something not quite right in that thinking.

03-22-2005, 07:38 AM
LeeG...on one side, you seem to indicate that a non-native species is okay,.....mute swans...and on the other you don't...so I am a bit confused.
Of course introducing millions of oysters is a bit more than having a population of 3,000 swans in the Chesapeake...and even they are creating problems...Think what would happen if there were millions of them.

03-22-2005, 08:49 AM
I read a book a million or so years ago named "Beautiful Swimmers", about Blue crabs, and the Chesapeake eco-system in general. I can't recall the author, but it was someone recognisable...
The Long Island Sound oyster population has recently gone through what happened in the Chesapeake years ago. The prime culprit (determined after the fact of course) was nitrogen blooms caused by sewage and "Chem-Lawn". And there's no quick fix to reverse the effect. If it's reversable at all. We are surely poisoning ourselves into extinction one day at a time.

Matt J.
03-22-2005, 09:00 AM
Lee, I'm not the brightest bulb in the box, no doubt, but my reading comprehension used to be "pretty OK"... reading your posts is not easy.

Can you just say what you think instead of speaking in tongues, vague references, metaphors and hyperbole? Seriously? I'm not sure I understand your opinion... You don't mind introducing non-native species since we're destroying the watersheds anyway?

Why not put the efforts into preserving the "native" oysters and other local species? Encouraging re-develompent (see the successes in Canton, Annapolis and lots of satellite urban areas) and discouraging sprawl, enforcing existing laws for stormwater quality, critical area setbacks, and maintenance of stormwater quality facilities would do more than just dumping a bunch of Asian oysters in the Bay.

For example, we are being strongarmed into designing "bio-retention" areas for most developments. These are little more than mulched areas with good soil underneath and sand / gravel beneath that. So anyone ever hear of sweeping a problem under the rug? Anyone ever hear of groundwater quality? What do people think a "bio-retention" area is supposed to do, exactly? Well, it's supposed to put the chemicals into the soils beneath the facility, to continually leach into groundwater. Genius, eh? Instead of using structural methods that can actually be maintained and monitored we're essentially forced to install bio-retention.

To top it off, although there is a State mandate to require owners to have a PE certified inspection done annually or better, no one follows this. NO one. So the facilities are built, sometimes correctly, and then forgotten; largely because no one knows how to "maintain" bio-retention (FYI, although there are stringent soils, plant materials, sand, and gravel and underdrain requirements, it's been shown that only the 2-3 inches of mulch sitting on the ground do ANYTHING for stormwater quality).

Anyone wonder why the Bay's dying a slow death?

03-22-2005, 09:01 AM

The general misconception is that plants give off 02....Well, yes they do during photosynthesis...They don't when that process is not activated....So algeal blooms are a problem.
I am familiar with the book but like you...can't remember the author...
If you really want to look into the politics etc of where the bay is going and why it isn't being saved...read Chesapeake ( BAY ) Blues....
A great book and a slap in the face of many of our gov. agencies as well as the many environmental non-profits who profess that they are trying to save the bay.

03-22-2005, 09:04 AM
Matt....I agree with your assessment and comment...the excuse will be and has always been...well with cut backs, we can't monitor what is going on. Poverty and lack of funds of course limit their abilities to follow the law and monitor those situations which need monitoring.
I hear it all of the time....
Hell, what are the basis for TMDLs...the state can't even figure that out.

[ 03-22-2005, 09:08 AM: Message edited by: uncas ]

Matt J.
03-22-2005, 10:26 AM
Well, of all oddball places... I'll pitch my solution to the WoodenBoat Forum... this could get long.

Currently, Joe Developer wants to build on some land he aquired. The land is wooded. He will, if smart, hire a good surveyor and engineer. They will determine exactly how much land he has, how much is wooded (they’d subcontract a forest professional), and what other inconveniences there are.

Joe wants to build as much as is absolutely possible, and he tasks the engineers and surveyors with carving up the land to the best benefit they can. Theoretically, they are the experts and know what’s needed, required, and appropriate. They in turn submit to different agencies to question their proposed development from every angle… under the guise of ensuring we’re not cheating, they capriciously attempt to control the development according to their personal preferences. The costs to the developer (read: the homebuyer or business building a facility) are becoming excessive, which is less important than the fact that the level of service has dropped, and the bureaucratic manpower lost to reviewing the work of a licensed professional.

Instead, why not hold engineers and surveyors strictly liable (already do) and skip the review processes. Having even random plan reviews instead of reviewing every driveway culvert to ensure I have the north arrow on the plan, would reduce the quantity of work required. As it is, the situation created by gross time losses so they can question whether silt fence or super silt fence are appropriate although either meets or exceeds state requirements is ludicrous.

So drop the intensive plan reviews and instead focus on ensuring that checklists are submitted for each project, wherein an engineer or surveyor certifies that all checklist items are satisfied as necessary. Put the manpower into ensuring that the landowner / facility owner maintains the facilities and has their annual inspection. The City of Bowie does this, and every year I find maintenance items that have to be taken care of by the landowner to maintain a use and occupancy permit… it works; both the facility and the procedure. I’ll get a copy of a memo from the city to the hospital in the next month or so, and I’ll send a sealed response with any items they need to address…

It’s not the manpower, it’s the bureaucracy. There are a lot of people, otherwise totally inept, who wish they could be engineers or surveyors. Since they can’t, they work for the gummite; they’ll not give that up to save some oysters.

Checklists according to the State’s environmental criteria, annual evaluations, and enforced maintenance schedules… It’d do more and last longer than Asian oysters.

Lee for some instructive unbiased evidence into what’s wrong with a bureaucratic system: check out the Four Seasons development proposed on Kent Island. Illegal by zoning, inadequate public facilities, critical Bay area requirements, and voted down vehemently by the local citizenry… they’re moving forward, because they “satisfied” the county board’s requirements (read: probably bribed or paid them off). Instead of estate sites of (I think) 10 acres, they want zero front foot and condominiums. Instead of a 300 foot setback from the water (for habitat) they’ve been granted only 100 feet. Instead of adequate sewer treatment facilities, they paid a lot of money to help upgrade in the future… Farmland come high-density development, 100 feet from the shore of the Chester River.

:rolleyes: Yeah, bring on the Asian oysters.

03-22-2005, 10:50 AM
Matt...this sounds as familiar as shakespeare's tragedies....
Damn...beeen there seen it...thrown my hands up in the air...and have tried to deal with it....
Wishful thinking....
The dollar is mightier than the world we live in...

03-22-2005, 11:00 AM
MattJ, thanks for getting me back between the lines. Sorry for the unclear communications. What I type makes sense but that's probably a consequence of talking to myself.

What you are describing is the problem all the way up through Pennsylvania as far as the effects down stream. What I'm saying is that the lack of a multistate policy on development and enforcement (like Kent Island) is much more significant than whether native or non-native oysters are propogated. The ecosystem that grew native oysters doesn't exist anymore. So re-introducing native oysters for a non-native ecosystem may not work if the non-native oysters are a better match for the new sedimented and polluted waters.
In one of the local creeks where boaters raft up and play, Harness Creek, I was watching a little spit of land dissapear. Across the entrance of the creek two large homes put in a bunch of fancy rock, rip rap and improvements. The reflected waves from the new retaining system worked the spit down at a fast rate. But it's ok,,I think they donate to all the right conservancy agencies.

03-22-2005, 11:05 AM
LeeG...may as well take into account NY...The Susquahanna starts in my home town...
If you drive Rte 81...you will see a sign stating that you are entering the Ches. Bay watershed approximately 30 miles north of Bristol, TN.( maybe KY)
It is one huge watershed and a lot of states are involved.

Matt J.
03-22-2005, 11:10 AM
I see your point, Lee, but I agree with CBF - Asian oysters are unpredictable, as are any other non-native species that have been introduced (zebra mussels are enough to make me rethink asian oysters), and it's irreversible.

It's not funny to me, because theoretically my job is specifically to protect receiving waters from development impacts... instead of being able to be creative and effective, my time is spent answering irrelevent review questions... some of the stories I've witnessed or heard would make your skin crawl. As the agencies pressure the developers, the developers look for short cuts... Right now, I could sell a developer a $10,000 per lot improvement in stormwater management efficiency, but instead that money goes to reviewers to nitpick silly stuff like color of overflow arrows; it's no better when they chose to question my engineering ethics and cast doubt on my engineering assumptions.

So, instead of working to effect proper environmental protections, I'm working to meet the minimum standards and exceed if possible.

03-22-2005, 11:12 AM
If you manage to do that...you are damn'd lucky....Spent ten years in this field...and never came home happy.....
Maybe that is why I semi retired....Just couldn't take it anymore.....

[ 03-22-2005, 11:14 AM: Message edited by: uncas ]