Lawmakers Question Asian Oyster Plan

AP, News Journal (Wilmington), Oct. 7

ANNAPOLIS—Sen. Paul Sarbanes and Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest are questioning the wisdom of Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s push to introduce Asian oysters into the Chesapeake Bay to replace native oysters all but eliminated by disease and pollution.

Gilchrest, a Republican like Ehrlich, said he planned to meet Wednesday in Washington with scientists conducting an environmental impact study on the proposal.

“We’re really focused on the wisdom of introducing the nonnative oyster,” said Edith Thompson, Gilchrest’s legislative assistant. “We’re not sure what science is being pursued in the name of this environmental impact study and whether it can be done in the time frame that Maryland put forth.”

Sarbanes is concerned about the limited scope of the research being conducted by Maryland, Virginia and the Army Corps of Engineers. The Maryland Democrat is working with Sen. John W. Warner, a Virginia Republican, on legislation that would direct the Corps of Engineers to study ways to restore native oysters rather than introducing a foreign species.

“I think there’s virtually unanimous agreement that the corps should look at native oysters,” said Charlie Stek, Sarbanes’ projects director. “The question now is for us to try and address that.”

Among the scientists briefing Gilchrest will be Robert Whitlatch, a Connecticut marine sciences professor who served on a National Academy of Sciences panel that studied the Asian oyster last year. The panel has recommended that at least five years of research should be completed before any decision is made on whether to introduce Asian oysters.

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