GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Governor Phil Bryant says it's time Mississippi focus on the future of its oyster industry.
As WLOX News first reported last week, the governor on Monday signed an executive order creating the Governor's Oyster Council. And the new group already has an ambitious goal for growing the industry.
Before signing the executive order creating the new council, Governor Phil Bryant called Mississippi oysters the "soybeans of the sea."
"If you look at what effort we put into soybeans in Mississippi, the research, the development, the funding. If someone wants to try and grow soybeans, we do all that we can to try and help them," said Governor Bryant.
He says oyster fishermen deserve that same attention. Especially since the industry has been hit so hard by natural and manmade disasters in recent years.
"Just to give you an indication of where we are, in 2004 Mississippi harvested 400,000 sacks of oysters. This year we're going to harvest about five percent of that. And so that is not the way we want to move into the future," said DMR Executive Director Jamie Miller.
Coast businessman Dave Dennis will chair the governor's oyster council.
"The goal is to get it up to roughly a million sacks of oysters by 2025. That's a big goal, that's a strong goal and it's going to take a concerted effort," said Dennis.
The council will look at variety of ways to enhance and expand the oyster industry, including aqua culture and oyster farming.
"I think we have to diversify the way we think about harvesting and growing. I think aqua culture will play a big part in that. I think farming will play a big part in that. You can control a lot of those conditions. So it will soften those years where we have poor environmental conditions or even disasters," said Director Miller.
After signing the executive order creating the new oyster council, the governor remarked, "It's done everybody, let's go to work."
Chairman Dennis says there's no limit on how many people can be part of the oyster council. He expects there will be representatives from across the industry, from fishermen to seafood processors to restaurant owners.