CMR hears report about oyster season

CMR hears report about oyster season

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Oyster fishermen turned out in large number at Tuesday morning's Commission on Marine Resources meeting.

They heard news of when the season may re-open and what impact the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway had on their livelihood.

Many of the oyster fisherman have one question: When can we go back to work?

"We do intend to open the regular oyster season as soon as conditions allow," said DMR marine fisheries director, Joe Jewell, who told the commission that reopening could happen late this week or early next.

"We were at about 13,000 sacks in the season, so we're still at a very low number. There is a significant opportunity for the fishermen to be back out harvesting again," he said.

You'll recall that red tide shut down the oyster season in early December. January's oyster relay project provided welcome work for some fishermen.

"The program lasted three days: January 18th through January 20th. Again, we had 155 enroll, with 95 fishermen participating. They transferred 39,264 sacks of material," said the DMR's Erik Broussard, who gave a report about the relay program.

Some fishermen called the relay program a good start, but say they need more long term attention.

"If there's a commission that wants to back these fishermen up, now's the time. Because we're struggling. This is an industry that's trying to come back from devastation," said James "Catfish" Miller.

"At the path they're on, it's not very sustainable. I've expressed this many times. The past six years, due to all the disasters, they haven't even been able to harvest seven months combined. No one could survive like that. No one," fisherman advocate, Thao Vu, told the CMR.

A bit of good news for oyster fishermen: the Bonnet Carre spillway impact wasn't as bad as many had feared, even though DMR prepared for the worst.

"Sort of like a hurricane, when you get wind of one coming, you have to prepare for the worst case scenario and hope for the best, which is what we did," said Jewell.

Good news on the red tide monitoring; most of the harmful bloom is now gone.

Jewell says the exact re-opening of oyster season will depend on the Pearl River. That river recently crested, but yesterday's rainfall will raise water levels again.

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