Oyster farming collaborative formed to provide support and unified voice

Thursday’s initial meeting to form a Gulf Coast shellfish growers association drew about 40 participants representing growers, processors and academics.
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 6:10 PM CDT
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OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - The effort to create a sustainable oyster industry is getting even more serious.

With the slow death of traditional oyster harvesting, off-bottom aquaculture, through which oysters are grown from seeds in cages, has been a big focus. Now, those in and around the industry are forming a collaboration to make sure the path to success is much easier.

“If we’re going to meet the demand, the growing demand required by a growing human population, it has to come from aquaculture,” said University of Southern Mississippi professor Dr. Reg Blaylock.

While the practice has been around for a little while, it’s not been seriously considered as a savior for the industry.

But attitudes are changing. Terry Boyd grew up in an oystering family. Now he has his own aquaculture business.

“I do feel that tradition is dying, but we’re kind of bringing it back to life in a more profitable manner, I guess you can say,” he said.

What’s helping is a new collaborative program called Supporting Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration, operated through the Nature Conservancy/Pew Charitable Trusts and facilitated by The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

Thursday’s initial meeting to form a Gulf Coast shellfish growers association drew about 40 participants representing growers, processors and academics.

“If the industry is going to grow and be the dynamic economic engine that we think it can be, it requires input from all these people,” Blaylock said.

That includes people like Mike Arguelles who is another convert from the old tradition.

“I always liked harvesting oysters and this was exciting because it’s so different from the natural reefs on the bottom,” he said. “A lot of rules have changed. One of them, which is most exciting, is that there’s no size limit.”

And Blaylock is hoping the excitement can create a support system for a new old tradition.

“We hope that what we do today, will be talked about 100 years from now,” he said.

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