CMR updated on oyster management strategy

CMR updated on oyster management strategy
Photo Source: WLOX News
Photo Source: WLOX News

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Looking for better ways to help manage the oyster industry.

The Commission on Marine Resources heard an in-depth report Tuesday from its scientists.

You'll recall, the Governor's Oyster Council was created to find ways of making the struggling industry sustainable and successful in the long term.

And one integral part of that is the DMR's oyster management strategy.

"We also know that the oyster resource is in decline," Dr. Kelly Lucas told the commission, "And we need all hands on deck to help solve this problem."

The chief scientific officer for the DMR told commissioners about various strategies for managing oyster production and harvest.

Traditionally, the DMR relies on a model which estimates abundance of the resource on the various reefs.

"What we're looking at there, is we're waiting for a point when you start to see that dip and you think you've captured what you can capture cause it's slowing down. And you recommend closing the season," Dr. Lucas explained.

This year the DMR will incorporate a strategy that's proven successful in Louisiana. It's called the "shell budget" model and is based on maintaining a no-net-loss of shell material on a productive oyster reef.

"It does provide a biological reference point that you can measure sustainability. And it aids to stop harvest when that target is reached. And it also helps us conserve shell and conserve habitat," said Dr. Lucas.

"A lot of this information is now being entered directly on the laptop computers on the boat in the water," said Scott Gordon, as he outlined how the DMR samples oysters and water quality and physical condition of the reefs prior to a season opening.

Early indications are not promising in terms of abundance.

"Some areas have a few oysters in them. But the areas are getting larger where we have low numbers or none. This is not initially very encouraging for us," Gordon told the CMR.

One minute dredge tows collect oyster samples, as do divers.

"Feeling around within that grid and picking up every oyster that he finds in there," Gordon explained.

Along with studying the reefs, a land-based survey is also conducted.

"Do we have any new houses or do we have new industry that may potentially adversely affect the growing areas. And we do an annual update of that," said Gordon.

The CMR will receive a report at next month's meeting, with all the data and pre-season survey information.

The commission can then make a decision about setting the opening date and harvest limits for this year's oyster season.

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