DMR looking to recruit oyster farmers

DMR looking to recruit oyster farmers
The 85-acre aquaculture operation would be south of Deer Island. (Photo source: WLOX)
The 85-acre aquaculture operation would be south of Deer Island. (Photo source: WLOX)

MISSISSIPPI SOUND (WLOX) - The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources is looking for oyster farmers interested in raising half shell oysters in an 85-acre aquaculture operation south of Deer Island.

The DMR is looking at 85 acres, on the south side of the island, between the shoreline and Katrina Key.

"This island is very popular with the citizens of Mississippi, and we intend for every citizen to be able to access the island as they see fit. We intend for this project to increase fishing production. It's good for the water quality. Oysters are great for filtering water," said Jason Rider, the oyster extension agent for DMR.

Rider says the proposed oyster farm project is very similar to aquaculture operations already successfully underway in nearby coastal Alabama.

"Will be very similar to what's going on in Alabama. We have two types of methods we will be using; a floating basket and a suspended long line system. Both of those are being used in Alabama to great success," said Rider.

WLOX News Now visited some Alabama oyster farms two years ago.

"To get the price you need to make this economical, you need to aim for that half shell market and that market seems to be growing," said Scott Rikard, with Auburn University, who gave a tour of the Alabama operation.

It's the same market the Deer Island operation will be targeting.

"The demand for half shell oysters is greatly increasing. All around the nation, people are requesting oysters. We've seen study after study that shows the half shell market is on the rise, and people are interested in where their seafood is coming from," said Rider.

The project involves a two-year training program for those interested in farming oysters. Rider says he hopes that training can begin, by early next summer

"We want people that are serious about oyster farming, that can commit their time and resources to the program, and really make a difference by providing jobs," he said.

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