State of oyster industry five years after oil spill - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

State of oyster industry five years after oil spill

BP Oil spill: 5 years later. (Photo source:WLOX) BP Oil spill: 5 years later. (Photo source:WLOX)
BP Oil spill: 5 years later. (Photo source:WLOX) BP Oil spill: 5 years later. (Photo source:WLOX)
BP Oil spill: 5 years later. (Photo source:WLOX) BP Oil spill: 5 years later. (Photo source:WLOX)
MISSISSIPPI SOUND (WLOX) -
Monday, the coast will remember the anniversary of a tragic event that is still impacting our area. 

The 2010 BP Oil Spill transformed many coastal industries. One that's seeing one of the biggest impacts is the oyster industry.

An oysterman's job is already riddled with uncertainties, like the impact of weather, which could shorten an already limited season. So when the Deepwater Horizon rig leaked around 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf, the effect was devastating. 

"It's a short window hit by a short window," said Jim Wright. 

Being in the industry for 20 years, Wright knows how tough the job can be. When an entire season was shut down from 2010 to 11, he and many others across the coast felt it in a huge way. 

"You know I've got a family to support. I've had to find other work," said Wright.

Now, five years after the disaster, people outside the industry have noticed and are putting forth an effort to boost the still-struggling oystermen. 

"There have been a lot of committees that are working extraordinarily hard to really come up with reasons and ways to give the oystermen a chance to succeed a little bit better from a business perspective," said Dave Dennis.

Those committees formed an oyster council in February under the leadership of Dennis and Governor Phil Bryant. Dennis said the number of oysters harvested this year is shocking. 

"It's at about 25 or 26,000 sacks for this current year," said Dennis.

Dennis says that number should be in the half-million sack range, but he wants to do even better. 

"Our goal, by 2025 is to hit a million sack per year," he said.

According to Dennis, the council is making that possible by providing unique opportunities for oystermen to invest in farming with confidence. For now, the industry insiders will simply have to hold on to a promise of something better.

"I'm hoping that they come up with something that will be a middle ground for everyone," said Wright.

If all goes according to plan, Dennis said oystermen will be able to get a lease and get started with their farms as early as July.

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