Oysters being raised in mesh bags suspended from lines. (Photo: William Walton, Auburn University)
Researchers work on new oyster farming method in Mexican Gulf
Wednesday, November 24, 2010, 15:30 (GMT + 9)
Researchers for the Louisiana State University (LSU) and Auburn University are collaborating on a new oyster farming initiative in the Gulf of Mexico. The project aims for the industry to adopt off-bottom oyster culture to work with traditional farming methods, which entails raising oysters on reefs and harvesting them on the sea floor.
The new technique will result in oysters being raised in mesh bags suspended from lines, a process that increases their survival rates and lets them grow faster.
"By doing that we can get nearly 100 percent survival in areas where you traditionally can't farm oysters," said Dr John Supan, Louisiana Sea Grant and LSU AgCenter oyster specialist, Fox8 News reports.
Other advantages include higher productivity, job creation and ongoing production of a safe and sustainable national oyster supply, said Supan and Bill Walton, Auburn University aquaculture and fisheries specialist. Also, this way oysters are sheltered from predators, there is a means to lessen fouling and complete harvests of planted oyster seed are enabled constituting a major improvement over traditional methods.
Supan added that with adequate planning, the new technique can coexist with other water uses and users without problems.
Because of how the oysters are bred, researchers say the product will remain fat year-round and taste just as good as traditionally harvested oysters.
BP’s oil spill earlier this year has boosted interest in oyster farming.
"We have received more calls and questions about oyster farming in the last four months than we have combined over the prior 12 months," said Walton. "The spill has created a window of opportunity where traditional oystermen are eager, even desperate, to find ways to get back to working on the water as soon as possible."
Oyster seed will be provided by the Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory on Dauphin Island, Alabama, and the Sea Grant Bivalve Hatchery at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), Marine Research Laboratory on Grand Isle, Louisiana.
Funding for the project comes from the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program at LSU and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium by the National Sea Grant College Programme's Marine Aquaculture Initiative, a national grant competition.
LDWF is also cooperating with officials in Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana to create plans for a plant that would give space for oysters in the larval stage to grow before being employed by the industry.
"Louisiana's oyster fishery has been hit with major natural and man-made disasters in the last five years and has grown wiser for it," stated LDWF Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina.
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