BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Activity has come to a screeching halt at a recently reopened oyster reef. The new harvesting area, known as area 5 A, was closed down Wednesday morning just a week and a day after it opened.
This closure was due to rainfall in the area reducing the salinity of the oysters. The new 115-acre section had just opened for the first time in more than 50 years on Nov. 1.
The closure took some fishermen by surprise. Others in the industry say it makes sense.
"I think they should have left it open until we got more rain. I've done it all my life, and we used to eat oysters before they controlled them. You'd just go out and get them, and we never had problems with oysters before," said David Hill, a lifelong fisherman.
Chris Lyons, who manages day-to-day operations at Saint Michael's Ice House in Biloxi, said the closure is reasonable.
"Being that the water is shallow, we're hearing that when you have just a slight amount of rain and you have that runoff, it affects the water a lot quicker than it does if you have deep water," said Lyons.
Officials with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources tell us in some cases, an inch of rain is all it takes to shut down a shallow reef. That's in comparison to the two inches that it takes for deeper reefs.There are other factors to consider as well, such as river runoff and winds.
Officials will continue to monitor the water and will reopen the reef when the salinity reaches a safe level. Fishermen can call DMR's hotline for the latest updates on the reef's status at 228-374-5167.
DMR officials tell WLOX News Now activity at the new reef has been steady since it opened, bringing in hundreds of sacks every day.