The Bay Program plans to form a special task force to make policy recommendations about the potential introduction of the nonnative oyster, Crassostrea ariakensis, into the Bay.

The action stems from the Bay Program’s 1993 policy on the introduction of nonindigenous aquatic species.

That policy says the Bay jurisdictions would “oppose the first-time introduction of any nonindigenous aquatic species into the unconfined waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries for any reason unless environmental and economic evaluations are conducted and reviewed in order to ensure that risks associated with the first-time introduction are acceptably low.”

¤he policy calls on the Bay Program’s Living Resources Subcommittee to convene an independent panel to review and evaluate any intentional first-time introduction.

Frank Dawson, chairman of the subcommittee, recently asked each Bay Program partner — the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia; the District of Columbia; the EPA; and the Chesapeake Bay Commission — to appoint one representative to serve on the panel.

In addition, two scientists — selected in consultation with the Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee — will be named to the panel.

Once the panel is formed, it will have 60 days to complete a review, using both environmental and economic information, and make recommendations about the introduction.

The role of the panel is only advisory; the final permitting decision regarding an introduction rests with individual Bay jurisdictions.