Oyster fishermen frustrated by closures - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Oyster fishermen frustrated by closures

Fisherman say they are frustrated with the situation. (Photo source: WLOX News) Fisherman say they are frustrated with the situation. (Photo source: WLOX News)

Heavy rainfall, a high river stage and now — red tide.

Each forced a closure of the oyster reefs in Mississippi, making the current season one of the worst in recent memory.

“I mean the governor said we're supposed to be the soybean farmers of the sea. If the soybean farmers have a bad crop, they get subsidies. They get grants. Where's ours?” said oyster fisherman, Rudy Toler.

Fishermen say they're beyond frustrated.

“I think the main concern is the money that was allocated for us to rebuild the reefs — it was to help the fishermen. The fishermen have seen zero monies come in for that,” said Drew Livings, a longtime fisherman.

And while closed reefs mean no money coming in, bills don't take a holiday.

“But you still have stall rent, boat upkeep, shipyard bills. You still have all that,” said John Livings.

Fisherman James Wright added, “We've had 12 days to work so far. I have four children that I've raised and we've had a good life doing this for a living. This year I've got the community paying for my kid's Christmas. I'm not proud of it. All I want is an opportunity, not a handout.”

DMR Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Kelly Lucas says plans are in the works to engage the oyster fishermen in reef restoration and other jobs. The original idea was to do it after this season.

“Now that we're waiting to see when we can reopen the season, we are looking at ways to possibly engage the fishermen in some of these tasks as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Lucas.

Fishermen say they're ready to work, whether it's relaying oysters or helping plant cultch material.

“Nothing is just a bad option,” said John.

Dr. Lucas says the oyster reefs can't re-open until after the red tide is gone. When the algal bloom is over, the DMR will still have to test samples of oysters to be certain it's safe to re-open the season.

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