The gripping story of how scientific detective work solved a 40-year mystery...
Painting a fair picture of the Bay’s oyster heritage is a tough assignment. On the one hand, the Bay’s watermen are its iconographic characters, as native to this region as bullfighters are to Spain. On the other hand, their graceful skipjacks pulled dredges that brought down the Bay’s virgin oyster reefs.
Skeptics have also questioned whether or not there has ever been any invasive species that's singlehandedly caused significant ecological damage in the Chesapeake Bay. The answer is MSX. It was like the Bubonic Plague for oysters, and it originated from elsewhere. If oysters were once hailed as "white gold," then MSX was the White Death.
The remarkable story of how scientists found the origins of MSX - and their speculations about how the parasite ended up in the Chesapeake and Delaware Bay in the first place - is the subject of Who Killed Crassostrea Virginica? by the Maryland Sea Grant. The film traces the decline of the Bay’s native oysters, leading up to the fatal blow brought by MSX and another prevalent disease, called Dermo.
Some might argue that the Bay's oystermen had - through decades of aggressive harvesting - already destroyed their "golden goose." And, there is some truth in that. By knocking down the old bars, watermen not only removed bargeloads of oysters from the Bay, but they left the remaining oysters lying on the bottom. Increasing clouds of sediment covered them, sponges and other predators attacking them.
This documentary re-evaluates the usual suspects - over-harvesting, pollution, disease and mismanagement - in light of fresh findings from science labs, from the bottom of the Bay, and from long-forgotten historical archives.
Produced, written, and directed by veteran filmmaker Michael W. Fincham, the film captures both the poignant destruction of a fabled fishery and the prolonged scientific inquiry into the origins of the killer parasite.
Our monthly Environmental Film Series is presented through an ongoing partnership with the Havre De Grace Maritime Museum. We are sponsored by a generous grant from the Joseph Robert Foundation.