Mississippi oyster reefs are being replenished. (Photo: Mississippi Department of Marine Resources)
Mississippi tries to revive oyster reefs
Thursday, September 22, 2011, 15:30 (GMT + 9)
The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) is concluding an oyster cultch plant as part of a continuing effort by the MDMR Shellfish Bureau to rebuild and refurbish the state’s oyster reefs. The project began in August and will run until 30 September 2011, which is just when oyster larvae have the best chances to attach to cultch material and grow.
"Typically, we try to do our cultch plant activity in the spring, and then later in the late summer, early fall. And we try to time it like that to coincide with our peak `spat' set where oyster larvae happen to be in the water," said shellfish bureau director with the MDMR Scott Gordon.
The oyster reefs in question are St Joe’s Reef, Pass Marianne Reef, Telegraph Reef, Henderson Point Reef and Pass Christian Tonging Reef.
Two types of materials are being used to rebuild 1,043 ac in this cultch plant.
The first is 30,000 yd3 of crushed oyster shell from Bayou La Batre, Alabama that are getting shipped on barges. The second is 34,681 yd3 of limestone material being transported down the Mississippi River over a distance of roughly 430 mi to the Mississippi Gulf Coast on hopper barges.
Once the material arrives in Mississippi, high pressure hoses are used to diffuse the oyster shell and limestone materials off the barges and onto the reefs.
Oyster larvae spend time swimming in the water for about three weeks before descending to the bottom of the sound, where they permanently attach themselves to the oyster shell and limestone material and wait to grow.
The oysters will be ready to harvest within 18 to 24 months.
|An oyster fisherman uses a cane pole to assess the bottom type of an oyster reef. (Photo: dmr.ms.gov)
However, Gordon believes this year’s oyster season may be a short one. He expects an 85 per cent mortality rate for the oysters, Sun Herald reports.
“This is going to be a tough season for us,” he said.
Gordon said he will ask the Commission on Marine Resources this week to approve DMR’s executive director to set the opening day and limits for the season, which in Mississippi typically begins in October and runs until April.
The shellfish bureau will be monitoring this season closely, although the season may be limited and open only to tongers, he explained.
“I think I can be fairly certain to say we won’t open the season to dredging,” he stated.
Commercial fishers voiced their concerns at this week’s meeting of the Commission on Marine Resources and criticised DMR's cultch planting project, saying the money should have gone to an oyster relay programme that gives local fishers work transporting and transplanting healthy oysters to help restore the reefs, WLOX reports.
The project is being funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Emergency Disaster Recovery Programmes I and II.
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