Plan to save ailing oyster industry is unveiled - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Plan to save ailing oyster industry is unveiled

Council members say they have a goal of harvesting 1 million sacks of oysters a year by 2025.  (Photo source: WLOX) Council members say they have a goal of harvesting 1 million sacks of oysters a year by 2025. (Photo source: WLOX)
The governor's oyster council was formed earlier this year, and it has spent the past several months studying ways to revitalize an industry that has been hit hard by Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. (Photo source: WLOX) The governor's oyster council was formed earlier this year, and it has spent the past several months studying ways to revitalize an industry that has been hit hard by Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. (Photo source: WLOX)
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

The oyster industry in Mississippi has been on the decline for years. Efforts to save the industry were unveiled Tuesday when the governor's specially appointed oyster council released its report detailing what can be done to help, after five months of work.

Currently, thousands of sacks of oysters are harvested each year in Mississippi waters. The new goal, a million sacks a year by 2025.

"Incentivizing private leasing is really going to be the way that we get there. We've got to increase the acreage where we are growing oysters," DMR Executive Director Jamie Miller said.

Larger leases, up to a 1000 acres for as long as five years, will leave banks more willing to lend. But the state has to as well.

"We've got to invest in this, just as we do corn, cotton and soybeans," Governor Phil Bryant implored. "This is a crop in Mississippi and it's been ignored way too long."

He also said the growing demand for oysters will play a role, too.

"It is becoming one of the favorite food sources around the United States and they need to buy it here. It needs to affect our economy. As I said earlier when we began this process, this is the soybean of the sea."

No doubt, a lot of hard work was put into coming up with the guidelines, the booklet to save the oyster industry. But for the oystermen I talked with at the Pass Christian harbor Tuesday morning, they have some doubts. They want to see action now.

For those oystermen, DMR Director Miller had these reassuring words.

"I hope they'll keep the confidence to know that our agency, our governor, are committed to make sure that there are oysters for them to harvest. They are important to our economy."

Members of the oyster council are hopeful about the future. One of them is Tish Williams.

"Now we have a plan, a plan to implement, to restore the oyster industry. And if we stay focused on the oyster, then we will we be successful."

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