The U.S. government is no longer considering whether it should declare Eastern oysters endangered, which would have affected people who make their living off the shellfish, although it still plans to finish a study on the species’ health.
The man who filed the request that the federal government list oysters as an endangered species has taken it back.
Dieter Busch, a consultant, suggested the listing because the Chesapeake Bay population on the Atlantic coast has collapsed. He withdrew his request because “there was so much misunderstanding, and the misunderstanding was being successfully channeled into complaints” by people who might be affected.
He said he did not realize when he filed the petition in January that listing the oysters as endangered also could shut down beds north of the Chesapeake up to Rhode Island and south to the water off Louisiana and Texas, even though those areas still provide millions of pounds of oyster meat a year.
Busch, who used to head an arm of a 15-state regulatory group, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, said he still thinks the request to the National Marine Fisheries Service was reasonable.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which includes the fisheries service, still plans to complete a study of oyster populations “for our interest,” spokesman Daniel Parry said.
John Connelly, president of a trade group called the National Fisheries Institute, was glad to hear that the study will go on. “It’s good scientific data we hopefully will be able to make use of in ensuring a continued supply of oysters,” he said.
Disease and overfishing have devastated the Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, in Chesapeake Bay. Marylanders harvested 2 million to 4 million bushels a year through the 1970s, but less than 100,000 bushels a year in the last decade.