BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - New federal regulations are now in place regarding the oyster industry in Mississippi and other states. Anyone involved in the industry in any capacity now has to receive specialized training in the sanitary harvesting and transporting of the delicacy.
Because of that, class was in session Monday morning at the Department of Marine Resources. About 100 oystermen showed up to learn things many of them already know. Despite that, the training is critical.
"These are rules that are already in place that the fishermen are already complying with, they just became mandatory," said Joe Jewell, DMR's Director of Marine Fisheries.
Most of the oystermen I talked with said they came to the meeting because they had to, in order to get a license or get a license renewal. They also said they've been doing this most of their lives and know how to handle the oysters. But they added, you're never too old to learn.
"I probably will, I always learn something new about the industry and all," oysterman Jessie Roberson said. "Keep them in a cool place, you know. They'll last a good while."
Getting a certificate means getting a license. But some, like Charles Wilson, had reservations.
"Well, I don't know about that. Most of these guys know about oystering; they've been doing it all their lives, you know. It could help them, I suppose," Wilson said.
"We'll follow what the law says," oysterman Dale Benton said. "There are certain times you've got to have awnings on your boat to keep the sun from drying them out, and try and keep things sanitized, like they're going to teach here today."
DMR officials also stressed that for many, this was simply a formality.
"The oystermen and the processors are already well aware of the rules and regulations that are in place. This is just sort of an update or refresher course for them," Jewell said.
It's a refresher course that will allow the fishermen to continue to make a living off the bounty of the sea.
Officials with the DMR say about 650 people work in the oyster industry in South Mississippi. Because of that, they plan on hosting more training sessions in the next few weeks, so they can all receive their certificates.