It’s time for U.S. to act on species’ introductions

Your coverage of the Ariakensis oyster issue in the March Bay Journal was quite good. However, you might, in the future, devote some attention to the needed passage of federal legislation regarding exotic introductions for aquaculture.

New Zealand is one of the few countries with a “New Organisms Act” (1996). According to a recent article by Richard Naylor of Stanford’s Center for Environmental Science and Policy in the Nov. 23, 2001 issue of Science, “The New Zealand approach regulates exotic introductions comprehensively in a single legislative act with clear oversight…All species are considered potentially invasive and therefore prohibited unless proven otherwise.”

The article further mentions that the World Conservation Union and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea have issued comprehensive guidelines for preventing the introductions of invasive species.

The United States should be leading the world in proper aquaculture methods. The passage of an act similar to New Zealand’s would greatly reduce potential harm from alien species, and the politicizing, grandstanding and possible suits filed by one state or non-governmental organizations against another state.

John M. Roberts
Richmond, VA

Jury still out on Phragmites

In the centerfold of the March issue of the Bay Journal, Phragmites was listed as one of the Bay Program’s “least wanted species.” This may be true, but as scientific studies that have been conducted over the past several have shown, it ought to be on the “watch list.”

Studies have shown that it provides suitable food and habitat for many estuarine species, including waterfowl.

You are just repeating the “old wives tales.” There was a conference in January titled, “Phragmites australis: A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing.” You ought to develop risk assessments and really evaluate its impacts before giving it the death penalty.

Judith S. Weis
Department of Biological Sciences
Rutgers University

Centerfold supports endless study

Your centerfold spread in the March Bay Journal was obviously in support of the scientists who wish to study Ariakensis and continue their employment ad infinitum.

I do not see where the Chinese oyster will be a consumer of underwater grasses like the mute swan, chew away at the roots like the nutria, create a dense mat like phragmites, grow in dense thickets like purple loosestrife, wipe out native grasses like the water chestnuts or clog water pipes like the zebra mussel. It is simply an oyster like many others that have been introduced in locations foreign to them around the world with great success.

The Suminoe oyster has been studied in Virginia for five or more years. The Virginia Assembly has allowed for three more years. If at the end of that time it has not been shown that it will be harmful, the Assembly suggests that reproductive oysters be introduced.

Now the Virginia oyster industry sees a light at the end of the tunnel. Without this, I feel the Chinese oyster would have been quickly introduced into oyster beds without the benefit of the quarantine which will guarantee a disease-free stock.

T. Freeland Mason
Kilmarnock, VA