Seafood Community's Congressional Testimony Sheds Light on Health of Oyster Population Shellfish Growers: Oyster Listing Unneeded,

Misuse of Endangered Species Act



    WASHINGTON, July 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Members of the National Fisheries
 Institute testified before the House Committee on Resources today on the
 potentially devastating economic and consumer impact of the proposed listing
 of the eastern oyster under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
     NFI members from the Northeast, Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico attested
 to the health of the oyster population nationally.  They also addressed how an
 ESA listing would destroy a thriving industry that provides nutritious and
 affordable food to Americans, and would do nothing to help oysters recover in
 the environmentally stressed Chesapeake Bay.
     "The answer is not restricting or eliminating working with the oyster,"
 said S. Lake Cowart, Jr., vice president of Cowart Seafood based in Virginia's
 Chesapeake watershed. "Water quality is the problem and oysters are the
 solution."
     The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reported that in 2003, the
 Gulf harvested more than 27 million pounds of oysters -- that would come to
 more than a billion actual oysters.  NFI President John Connelly adds,
 "Claiming that an oyster population of 27 million pounds is endangered shows
 why the ESA process is due for serious reform."
     The ESA petition filed by an environmental group in the Chesapeake Bay
 region failed to take into account the abundance of eastern oysters in the
 Northeast as well as the Gulf Coast.  The eastern oyster habitat ranges from
 the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada down the Atlantic coast and through the
 Gulf.
     Restoration efforts underway in the Chesapeake Bay involving Maryland,
 Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania have faced significant challenges due to
 the environmental conditions, persistent drought and presence of disease.
     The oyster industry represents millions of dollars in income and supports
 thousands of jobs in local communities.  Louisiana alone contributes over $286
 million to the economy and supports more than 3,000 full-time jobs.  Mike
 Voisin of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force said, "This listing could devastate
 local oyster communities; it just doesn't make sense to list this abundant
 food source that harvesters along the Atlantic and in the Gulf supply to the
 country."
     The determination of whether the petition is warranted has to be made by
 January 2006.
     NFI is the leading trade association for the fish and seafood industry
 whose members represent a variety of businesses ranging from the water to the
 table.  For more information visit our website at http://www.nfi.org.
 
 

SOURCE National Fisheries Institute

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