PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - BP-funded projects designed to boost oyster production, can't come soon enough for commercial fishermen in Mississippi. At Tuesday's Commission on Marine Resources meeting, board members discussed the ongoing challenges facing the oyster industry.
The historic opening of oyster reefs in Biloxi Bay was one remarkable bright spot in an otherwise mediocre oyster season. In eight days, fishermen harvested more than 2,500 sacks from Biloxi Bay reefs.
"Something that we've all anticipated. And we feel like Biloxi Bay is going to be a bright spot moving forward in the future, for oyster harvest," Erik Broussard with DMR Marine Fisheries, told the CMR.
It was a much different story for oyster season in the traditionally productive waters of the western sound.
"This is just kind of a cue to see where the resource is and is not. Unfortunately, some of the areas, not much to speak on," said Broussard, as he showed the board a chart with harvest numbers from the western sound.
Frustrated fishermen would like the DMR to hire them for oyster relay and reef replenishment projects.
"If there's any way some of the boats could maybe go drag some of the boxes that's still closed, to open them shells up. Put some rocks on 'em. And maybe put some seed oyster on 'em. So, we know we have something for next year," said oyster fisherman John Livings.
Jackson County fishermen will be happy to hear that one of the BP projects involves enhancing reefs near Pascagoula.
"Let's get some more reefs open and let's get Jackson County oysters back on the map. Because we've done a lot of infrastructure projects over the years to clean up our waters. And I believe they're only going to get that much cleaner," Jackson County Supervisor Randy Bosarge told commissioners.
The CMR did give oyster fishermen an early holiday gift: voting to open two five-day seasons just before the holidays.
"It would give fishermen a big boost for Christmas and Thanksgiving. And give that area of people in Pass Christian a chance to retail some oysters and help it all the way around," said CMR Chairman Richard Gollott, who proposed the two five-day seasons.
Those two "pre-holiday" oyster seasons would apply to the western waters of the Mississippi Sound. One season is set for November 17th through November 22nd. If that is successful, another will likely follow December 15th through December 20th.