BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Oyster season, the impact of the Bonnet Carre Spillway opening and the status of Red Tide. All were agenda items at Wednesday's monthly meeting of the Commission on Marine Resources.
DMR Marine Fisheries Director, Joe Jewell, told commissioners that oyster season will reopen as soon as conditions allow. He says that could be late this week or early next.
The impact of the Bonnet Carre Spillway was less than many had feared, and not nearly as bad as the 2011 spillway opening, which devastated the oyster industry. Jewell told commissioners that, much like preparing for a hurricane, it was necessary to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Fortunately, the total impact of the spillway being open for 23 days was less than some had feared.
A report on the oyster restoration or relay program brought mixed reviews from some of the many oyster fishermen in attendance. Some 155 fishermen took part in the oyster relay and transported nearly 40,000 sacks of oysters.
James "Catfish" Miller told commissioners they need to look at the long-term sustainability of the oyster industry. He suggested more attention be given to the reefs in Jackson County. Thao Vu questioned the fairness of the oyster relay program and how quickly it was put together.
Jewell told commissioners they had to move quickly with the pending opening of spillway. As for more restoration programs on the horizon, he reminded fishermen that the disaster money being used for the program was meant to be spread over five years.
As for the impact of Red Tide, the worst of it has certainly passed. The DMR staff collected and analyzed some 263 water samples during the duration of the harmful algal bloom in Mississippi waters.