Sep 4, 2008: Oyster World Update

Oyster World

Chesapeake Bay:

The oyster native to the East Coast, Crassostrea virginica, hasn't been doing well in the Chesapeake for a while. Reasons for the virginica's decline include overharvesting, pollution, and disease. The loss of the native oyster reefs has hurt the Bay's shellfish industry and ecosystem, as oysters filter algae out of the seawater and provide habitat for numerous other species.

For the past couple of years, government officials have been moving forward with a plan to introduce a Chinese oyster, C. ariakensis, which appears to be resistant to the diseases that have decimated the native oyster populations. The ariakensis oysters introduced into the Bay would be triploid oysters, which means they wouldn't be able to reproduce (more on this below), but still, the plan to introduce a non-native species is controversial.

For more, read The Chesapeake Bay Journal, and Rowan Jacobsen's excellent NY Times op-ed, "Restoration on the Half Shell."

Meanwhile, there's confusion in France:

According to the British Telegraph, French oyster farmers are blaming the recent oyster herpes outbreak on the fact that the industry has largely switched over to farming triploid oysters.

But astute readers will remember that originally French scientists blamed the virulence of the herpes outbreak on the fact that the oysters had exhausted themselves developing their reproductive organs.

And triploid oysters are genetically incapable of developing reproductive organs.


Definition: Triploid oysters, although not technically 'genetically modified,' as they contain no foreign genetic material, have three chromosomes instead of two, which makes them sterile. Because they don't waste energy on reproduction, they grow much faster than regular diploid oysters. Hama Hama oysters are good old-fashioned, fully-functional diploids.


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