Oysters may end up on endangered list - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Oysters may end up on endangered list

June 15, 2004

Albany- Jason Davis shucks dozens of oysters a night at A.J.'s Seafood and Oyster Bar in Albany.

"On a busy night, we probably do about 50 to 75 dozen," Davis said from behind the bar Wednesday night.

He gets them opened up and on a plate. The oysters at A.J.'s come from the Gulf Coast.

"Their farm raised to begin with," Davis said. "The ones we get are from Appalachiacola."

But Gulf Coast fishermen are getting worried. Federal regulators are looking at whether Eastern oysters may be endangered. Some of the oysters harvested in the Gulf Coast are the same species as those taken in waters along the Eastern seaboard. That's the potential problem.

"Ninety one percent of the total U.S. oyster production right now comes from the Gulf of Mexico," said Steve Vanderkooy, fisheries management director for the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. "So any change to the status of that species could potentially impact our fisheries here."

The petition says Eastern oysters are endangered because the habitat hasn't been protected. But groups involved with Gulf Coast oystering will try to convince federal regulators that management in the Gulf is fine.

"We're optimistic that the states will be able to provide the data and the Gulf will not see any impact from this," Vanderkooy said.

The federal government may have the option of setting conservation measures for a certain area, like the Chesapeake Bay. A final decision isn't expected until next year.

So there would still be plenty to shuck.

"I like them," Davis said. "I've always like them."

The customers who like them count on Davis to keep them coming.

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