OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Teenagers are training to help restore the troubled oyster industry in Mississippi. On Wednesday, Ocean Springs High School received a donation of nearly one million baby oysters.
As the special delivery arrived at the school, students eagerly welcomed the tiny shellfish to their new home.
"I thought it was crazy. I thought it was just going to be a few oysters, but when I saw how many we actually have, I mean, I was just mind blown," said Ocean Springs High Junior Thomas Alan Foreman.
The oyster larvae from USM's Gulf Coast Research Lab are only four months old, and less than an inch in size. More than 20 aquaculture students at Ocean Springs High will be in charge of raising the spat. Duties include monitoring water quality, cleaning the tanks, and even feeding them an algae paste.
However, not all of the oysters will survive.
"They'll eventually out-complete each other, and then you have one or two oysters that will grow on this piece of shell," said GCRL Research Associate Jeremy Higgs as he held up a shell with five oysters on it.
"It shouldn't be hard. We've done it with our trout and our catfish, so I don't think it's going to be that different. But, it's definitely going to be a new experience," said Ocean Springs High Senior Hope Capobianco.
Caring for the young oysters will give the students invaluable experience, and help researchers with oyster restoration efforts; possibly impacting the future of oyster farming.
"It's actually very exciting to see this next generation of potential oyster aquaculture staff engaging in this activity. We feel they're very excited. We support programs like this," said GCRL Hatchery Specialist Angelos Apeitos.
Since aquaculture classes started at Ocean Springs High three years ago, GCRL has made five donations of speckled trout, tanks, and water to support the program.