Program aimed at growing oyster population
Disasters in recent years have left our oyster industry and its workers reeling, but the DMR, Port of Gulfport, Southern Miss, and the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services have all teamed up to help bring a recommendation by the governor’s oyster council report from two years ago a reality.
News 25 takes you behind the scenes of a new oyster aquaculture program set to improve oyster production on public reefs.
Raw, fried, charbroiled, you’d be hard pressed to find a Coast restaurant that doesn’t serve up Gulf oysters by the dozen. While demand is high, supply has been low in recent years in the wake of both man-made and natural disasters.
The government is shelling out millions to help give the industry a boost and to bring new life to our reefs, oyster culture, and harvest. DMR Executive Director Jamie Miller said, “The government has committed some RESTORE Act funds to purchase and retrofit a hatchery that would provide oyster larvae. We put together a remote set facility here in the Gulfport Harbor to take that larvae, get it in shells and take it to the reefs.”
Baby oysters are going to sit in tanks for about ten days before they’re taken to the reefs in Pass Christian where they’re going to continue to grow for the next 18 to 24 months. Oyster Extension Agent Jason Rider said, “We would like to see the resource back to where it was pre-storm, pre-Katrina. That was around 400,000 sacks a year. We want to get a million oyster sacks per year, but we’re anticipating growth every year.”
This remote set facility will play a major role in the overall plan, an ideal setting for growth. “What happens here, we basically have tanks we are running water through. We will have oyster shells in cages. We will introduce that larvae into the tanks and allow those larvae to sit in the shells, feed them for a few days,” said Miller.
All culminating back here in the Mississippi Sound. “We’ll empty those shells onto our oyster lugger, the Conservationist, and take them to our oyster reefs in Pass Christian and Biloxi. We have areas that have not grown oysters recently and we can restore those reefs by producing spat shells to those areas,” said Miller.