Oyster restoration efforts continue

Oyster restoration efforts continue

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - The Commission on Marine Resources will hear a report Tuesday morning about the ongoing efforts to restore the oyster industry. Commissioners may also decide on whether to allow another limited oyster season this fall.

The oyster dock at Pass Christian harbor is quiet for now. But those in the oyster industry are hoping that will change soon. Unfortunately, reports from the nearby reefs are not all that encouraging.

"We're optimistic it's going to be a somewhat mediocre season at best. We're still running a little bit short on oysters this year," said Joe Jenkins, with Crystal Seas Oyster Company.

Jenkins is one of the largest oyster dealers on the gulf coast. Demand for the product is there, the problem is lack of production. So, what's needed to increase future harvests?

"More cultch plants and shells and spat on shell and a lot of help from the DMR in providing the funds we need to do cultch plants," Jenkins said.

"Move ahead on recovery. Especially in the western reef complex. That's an area that's been really hard hit and happens to be one of our most productive areas," said Dr. Kelly Lucas, the chief scientific officer for the DMR.

Dr. Lucas said restoration of the industry will require a multi-pronged approach.

"You're going to see a lot of the traditional methods utilized, in terms of putting cultch material out and relaying from some of these sea grounds, so you have oysters in the area that can produce. But you're also going to see a lot of emerging technology, in terms of utilizing aquaculture. Spat on shell," she explained.

The oyster industry is still trying to recover from an unfortunate trifecta of trouble. First Hurricane Katrina, then the BP oil spill, and then the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway and an intrusion of fresh water.

Joe Jenkins said aquaculture and oyster farming will definitely play a role in the future. He's already involved in using large tanks to help grow oysters.

"I think it's a part that's needed on the gulf coast for a long time. And we're optimistic this upcoming season will be better," said Jenkins.

His advice for the CMR is to open the oyster season and see what happens.

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