Since the 2010 BP oil spill, the seafood industry on the Gulf Coast has struggled. Now, fishermen are speaking out against regulatory agencies, such as the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (M.D.M.R.). Fishermen they say are not doing enough to help save the industry. Oysters are not only a tasty treat on the Coast, but are also Mother Nature's way of cleaning the gulf water. After the 2010 BP oil spill, many oyster beds died off. Brian Rice, a commercial fisherman, says, "I don’t know whether it’s lack of knowledge or lack of concern, but we have to put the oyster reefs back together so crabs and fish can come back here and be in a safe environment." Many local fishermen Rice are concerned that the M.D.M.R. is not doing enough to replenish the oyster beds, which in turn affects the entire seafood industry.
Rice also says, "This is not right. We have a natural product. We were once the highest producers, now we're not. Oyster fishermen are going out of business, shrimpers are going out of business. See, look, no shrimp." After much thought and consideration, the fishermen are ready to voice their concerns at a special gathering Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m. at the Biloxi Lighthouse. Christine Teare, a commercial fisherwoman, says, "So many people have been in this business for generations long and this is a way of life. This is their livelihood and they want to protect it for future generations and it’s just not about the money. It’s about a way of life."
Rice says a big factor causing the shortage of seafood is that the M.D.M.R. is not using recycled oyster shells to replenish the reefs. Rice also says, "The only thing they put back is limestone and crushed concrete, which is an unnatural product into a natural environment." The M.D.M.R. tells News 25 that they understand the fishermen's frustrations, but it will take time for the oyster supply to bounce back.
Melissa Scallan, a representative of the M.D.M.R., says, "There are a lot fewer oysters, so there are not as many oyster shells, so we buy what we can and use what we can, but there's just not enough to use only that to replenish the oyster reef." Rice says that the M.D.M.R. needs to be better at communicating their strategy with the fishermen who are losing work, but hopes the two parties can work together to bring the seafood industry back to where it needs to be.