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
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
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
The determination of whether the petition is warranted has to be made by
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