Jindal: Let Them Eat Oysters
Jindal seeks to avert unnecessary regulation of gulf shore oysters
Congressman Bobby Jindal (LA-01) introduced legislation to amend the Endangered Species Act to allow regional classification of the eastern oyster. The bill will allow oysters in the Gulf of Mexico to be considered separately from oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, where their population has been dwindling.
Gulf oysters are thriving, making them a staple of the shell fishing industry and a regular on restaurant menus across the state. However, efforts are underway to get oysters added to the endangered species list due to shrinking numbers in the Chesapeake. Such a reclassification, without the Jindal amendment, would apply to all eastern oysters, preventing their collection and devastating the oyster industry and other marine industries in the Gulf region.
"The shell fishing industry represents a major part of Louisiana's economy," Jindal said. "This loophole in the Endangered Species Act threatens to decimate that industry through a shortsighted protection effort. Though attempts to protect Chesapeake oysters should be supported, without the legislation I have proposed Louisiana and the Gulf States stand to suffer greatly. We can not allow that to happen."
The legislation, which is expected to be referred to the Committee on Resources of which Congressman Jindal is a member, changes the Endangered Species Act to allow the Eastern Oyster to be granted the same regional classification capabilities that are now granted to vertebrates. The effect of the amendment is to allow for eastern oysters that are struggling in one area, such as the Chesapeake Bay, to be protected, while the same species that is thriving elsewhere is not subject to the overly stringent restrictions placed upon it. Chesapeake Bay oysters could be brought back from near extinction while Gulf oysters would still be available for consumption.
"This is common sense legislation," Jindal continued. "Anybody who spends time off of Louisiana's shores can recognize that these oysters are not endangered. To classify them as such risks great harm to not only fishermen who make their living collecting oysters in the Gulf, but also to Louisiana's economy in total. I am confident that my colleagues in the House will see the sense of this proposal and that we can bring swift resolution to this problem."
The Gulf region produced 29.2 million pounds of oyster meat in 2003, 72 percent of the national total. Damages to the Louisiana oyster industry due to the effects of Hurricane Ivan were estimated at as much as $6.6 million; the cost of shutting down the industry if the eastern oyster is designated as endangered and the Jindal bill is not adopted would be far greater.