Oysters May Become an Endangered Species

JULY 21, 2005 --  As the number of eastern oysters significantly declines in the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, Congress is holding hearings this week on whether to add oysters to the endangered species list.  This means likely restrictions on harvesting oysters in local waters, and restaurants would have to find another source for oysters.

Environmentalist Tracy Skrabal with the Coastal Federation says it makes little sense to cripple the oyster industry here to protect the species in Virginia.

"I think we're seeing successes in terms of restoring the oyster populations, and restoring the reefs.  So, I think it would be really premature for us in North Carolina to talk about oysters as an endangered species."

While the decision has not been made to make oysters along the east coast endangered, some local business such as JA Alfords in Wilmington think it is a good idea.

"If they actually shut down the oysters for like two years, they would at least double in size and quantity. The harvest season is the same time that they grow. They haven't had a closure here for more than five days in twenty years. So everything is picked over. There's not much out there," says Nick Miller who works at the seafood warehouse.

The decision will be made in January on whether to add oysters to the endangered species list.  In the meantime, Skrabal is urging restaurants who serve local oysters and commercial fisherman to not worry too much yet.

Reported by Kacey Gaumer