Oyster garden program underway in Mississippi - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Oyster garden program underway in Mississippi

The grown oysters will be picked-up in November, then given to the DMR, which will deploy them on area reefs to aid with restoration. (Photo source: WLOX) The grown oysters will be picked-up in November, then given to the DMR, which will deploy them on area reefs to aid with restoration. (Photo source: WLOX)
OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) -

The Mississippi Oyster Gardening Program is up and running. Baby oysters were delivered last week to several sites along the coast, where residents will watch over their growth until this fall when they will be used to help restore existing reefs.

Tonya Chancellor and her 10-year-old neighbor, Mari Adlakha, get the cages ready to receive shells and oysters.

?"There's some good ones there," said Justin McDonald, as he unloaded a sack filled with shells and oyster spat.

McDonald oversees the oyster gardening program for the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium.

"We have 100 shells and those are going to have multiple spat, so these are going to be spat on whole shell. They came from a hatchery. They can range from one to five to ten. And what they're going to do, they're going to grow into clumps," said McDonald.

"We're from Missouri; there's not many oysters," said Tonya Chancellor.

She’s excited about the opportunity to grow oysters from her dock on east beach in Ocean Springs.

"We moved here from the Midwest a year ago and we started reading about the reef restoration. And this just really seemed like an easy way to get involved and meet some new people," she explained.

"They'll make their own shell and you'll have a bunch of them on this little shell here," said McDonald, as he loaded cages on the pier with the oyster shells.

On this rainy day, the task is to deploy the shells and oysters from the pier. The gardeners who oversee the cages with the growing oysters inside will watch for predators and give the cages an occasional shake.

"You want to make sure there's no big blue crabs in there. They'll be little when they get in, but if you don't catch them early they'll get too big to get out of the cage," said McDonald.

The cages are lowered by rope over the side of the pier. They'll remain in the water, with the gardeners checking on them occasionally.

"Every seven to ten days we encourage them to go out, minimal maintenance. Just check them to make sure they're still there, still happy and they'll do the rest," he explained.

The grown oysters will be picked-up in November, then given to the DMR, which will deploy them on area reefs to aid with restoration.

The Mississippi oyster gardening program began as a pilot project last year at Ocean Springs High School. This year, oysters were delivered to nine different "gardens" in Ocean Springs, Gautier, Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis.

Copyright 2017 WLOX. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly