Senator briefed at VIMS on oyster restoration efforts

by Bill Nachman - Posted on Jul 14, 2010 - 04:56 PM

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) visited the Virginia Institute of Marine Science Friday afternoon for a briefing on oyster restoration efforts at the Gloucester Point campus.

Photo: Sen. Mark Warner visited the Virginia Institute of Marine Science Friday afternoon. Here, he is briefed about oyster research at the Gloucester Point campus. Shown with Warner, center, are, from left, VIMS faculty Ryan Carnegie and Roger Mann, Dean/Director John Wells, and Stan Wells, director of VIMS’s aquatic breeding center. Photo by Bill Nachman.

Sen. Mark Warner visited the Virginia Institute of Marine Science Friday afternoon. Here, he is briefed about oyster research at the Gloucester Point campus. Shown with Warner, center, are, from left, VIMS faculty Ryan Carnegie and Roger Mann, Dean/Director John Wells, and Stan Wells, director of VIMS’s aquatic breeding center. Photo by Bill Nachman.

Without pledging any federal dollars to support such research, Warner said these positive steps for the oyster industry might provide a competitive edge to Virginia compared to some other oyster-growing states.

In some cases, Warner said, oyster restoration efforts have led to a "rebirth of more healthy waters."

During his almost 1½-hour visit to the VIMS campus, Warner and several of his aides first went to Chesapeake Bay Hall. There, Dean/Director John Wells and a handful of staff listened along with Warner and his group while Ryan Carnegie, an associate professor at VIMS, described some oyster genetic research that’s being conducted there.

Carnegie described the natural selection process, as well as tolerance in oysters to various diseases. Through use of genetic methods, he said, researchers can "sledgehammer" the pathogens that attack oysters.

Warner was shown slides of oyster genetics at work, with laboratory assistants Rita Crockett and Nancy Stokes helping Carnegie in the presentation.

Then, the group drove to the nearby oyster hatchery by the VIMS boat basin.

Stan Allen, director of VIMS’ aquatic breeding center, said it can be expensive to breed new oysters. Warner asked questions about the oyster industry being hard hit in the Gulf of Mexico, with Allen and Roger Mann, a VIMS professor, indicating that perhaps some Virginia oysters might be used to help rehabilitate the gulf’s oyster industry.