Pass Chistian Company Aims to Replenish Oysters in the Gulf

This year may be one of the worst seasons ever for the local oyster industry, so a Pass Christian company is trying a new method to revitalize oyster reefs in the Gulf.

Philip Dardar is a lifelong fisherman from the Pass and remembers the glory days of oyster fishing before Hurricane Katrina. Dardar says, “Used to be 70 to 80 boats coming in a day, coming in with 30 to 60 sacks a day depending on the limit at the time set by the D.M.R.”

But those days are gone, and this year’s season could be one of the shortest to date. Dardar also says, “We’re so low on oysters here that we’re going to try to have a season from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Everybody needs Christmas money.”

Local fishermen point to Katrina as the mark when the oyster population began to drop, and marine scientists are baffled as to why this resilient species hasn’t bounced back. William Walton, an aquaculturist, says, “I’m not sure why we don’t have oysters the way we used to, but I do trust the folks in the oyster industry when they tell me what we’ve been doing in the past has not been working as well as it used to.”

What Walton does know is local oysters are dying while they’re still in a fragile larva state. Crystal Seas, a local oyster processing company, has recruited Walton to grow oysters in huge tanks at the Pass Christian Harbor. The process is known as spating. You give the fragile larva oysters a chance to attach to shells. The process takes about two weeks and then they’re ready for the Gulf. This process is new to Mississippi, but is a common practice for oyster industries around the country. If all goes well during this year’s trial run, then Crystal Seas will fully implement the process next year.

Walton closes, “We’re going to try to get as much information out of it this year to guide years after that.” Scientists and oystermen hope this is the start of finally reviving the oyster population in the Gulf.

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