14 kids. Two parents. Living the good life in a large family setting in Virginia. We tell our stories that are funny, uplifting, challenging and everything in between. The struggle is real with lots of kids, but we'd have it no other way.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
A true story of rogue Chesapeake Bay oysters the size of dinner plates
This is one of my favorite stories from my time at the Daily Press about some rogue oysters who somehow escaped from a Chesapeake Bay marine experiment and lived to tell about it. For a while at least. I hope you enjoy it.
On assignment in 2012 with an oyster. But not one of THE oysters.
Oyster Survival Story Raises Questions
May 21, 2004|By MATT SABO Daily Press
A startling find of mammoth experimental bivalves left for dead yields a surprising conclusion: They're still alive, and they taste pretty good.
They were beasts of their species, orphans from a marine experiment gone awry that were lurking in the mucky bottom of a Rappahannock River tributary in Lancaster County.
Two girls out kayaking stumbled upon them last month. The girls lived to tell about it.
The behemoths did not.
They were two non-native oysters the size of dinner plates. A true full-meal deal.
Long since forgotten, the oysters weren't supposed to be there. They were among several hundred young bivalves put in the shallow tidal pond as part of a much larger 2001 experiment involving 60,000 oysters scattered around the Chesapeake Bay, said Jim Wesson of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.
Vigorous, hardy and disease-resistant -- and perhaps somewhat quick and elusive -- the c. ariakensis bivalves are known as Suminoe, or "Asian," oysters. The two oysters, along with at least three others found later, managed to elude recapture when the experiment ended in 2003, even though Wesson said they all were enclosed in a mesh cage.
Wesson believes the oysters got stepped on and shoved down in the muck. Because one of the components of the experiment was gauging mortality, it was assumed the oysters suffered an untimely demise.
"As far as we knew they were gone," Wesson said. "If they disappeared, you would assume a crab or something would eat them."
Now Wesson knows otherwise.
"They live very well," he said. "Even the ones we got up were doing very well. We were testing how they would hold themselves up in the mud. If they can't compete with the sediment around them, they wouldn't live very well in the bay."
The oysters were taken to Stan Allen, director of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. There they met their death and were found to be sterile, just as they were when the experiment began.
Allen found them intriguing, but he doesn't advocate orphaning experimental oysters.
"It's not a good idea to keep them out there without some custodial care," he said.
The find has raised eyebrows -- and questions -- particularly now that the Chesapeake Bay is hosting experimental trials involving about 800,000 Asian oysters. The trials are sponsored by the Virginia Seafood Council.
"We're pretty concerned about it," said Mike Fritz, living resources coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay Program office.
The Asian oysters in the current trials are penned in secure bags, racks and floats -- not put out loose on the bottom, he said.
"We're doing everything we can to keep them under control, to effectively keep the genie in the bottle and not let these oysters get established as a population in the bay," Fritz said.
What sets the Asian oysters apart from native bivalves is that they seem to flourish in the same waters that, after a century of overharvesting and diseases, have been so deadly to native oysters.
It's unusual for native oysters to live through three summer seasons, Allen said.
Not so for the Asian oysters, obviously. Despite concerns that the Asian oysters could reverse their sterility, the Rappahannock group proved unfruitful.
"It's very helpful to know that the sterility holds and to know that they grow very well in the environment we have," Wesson said.
The EPA's Fritz said the Asian oysters in the current trial are being studied to see if they are susceptible to diseases, if they may be hosts to diseases or parasites that could afflict native shellfish and if they are suitable to live alongside other species living on the bottom of the bay.
While questions abound regarding the Asian oysters, one big question has been cleared up.
They taste good.
"They're not bad," Allen said. "I mean, not raw. Cooked, they're quite good."