Mississippi Saltwater Fishing
The oyster industry is an integral part of the Mississippi Gulf Coast – its economy, its history and its culture. The oyster industry has suffered greatly because of several natural and man-made disasters since 2005, including Hurricane Katrina, the BP Oil disaster and four separate openings of the Bonnet Carre Spillway (2008, 2011, 2016 and 2019). In 2004, oyster fishermen in Mississippi harvested nearly 500,000 sacks of oysters. In 2012, there were 65 sacks harvested, and in 2016, about 40,000 sacks were harvested. Gov. Phil Bryant created the Governor’s Oyster Council on Restoration and Resiliency in 2015 to address the problems this industry faces and to come up with solutions. One of those solutions is a remote-setting facility. Remote setting is a method of producing oysters that differs from natural oyster production. Remote setting is the production of oyster spat by setting hatchery-reared larvae onto cultch substrate (hard material for oyster larvae to attach, typically shell, crushed concrete or limestone) at a remote location from the hatchery. Spat are then planted on-bottom or off-bottom.
Port of Gulfport Remote Setting Facility
The goal of this facility is to assist in increasing the production of the natural oyster reefs along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
In 2017 MDMR began setting oysters in four 2,600-gallon tanks at the Port of Gulfport. During its first year of operation, the facility restored over 30 acres of water bottom by the remote setting method. This assisted in increasing the production of the natural oyster reefs along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Off-Bottom Oyster Aquaculture Training Program
The oyster industry along the Mississippi Sound currently is limited to harvestable reefs; however, the number of oysters available for harvest has decreased in the past decade, which has limited the number of oystermen and fishermen engaged in this economic sector.
MDMR partnered with Auburn University to develop an off-bottom oyster aquaculture training program.
The program is set up in two phases that occur over a two-year period. The first phase of the program includes classroom and field education on aquaculture, business operations and demonstrations of off-bottom aquaculture techniques. The first phase began in the summer of 2018, and participants attended training meetings, workshops, received assistance with development of a business plan, deployed grow-out systems at training site(s) and stocked those systems with seed.
The second phase of the program will incorporate hands-on training by allowing participants to select an oyster-growing technique from the range of permitted methods using information gained from phase one. Participants will maintain their assigned gear and oyster seed, including all aspects of fouling control, grading, splitting and site maintenance following best management practices. Instructors and participants will periodically evaluate oyster survival, growth and quality, as well as comparing individual success among program participants to facilitate collaborative learning.
The goal of this program is to diversify the oyster industry by training oystermen and fishermen in off-bottom aquaculture to support and grow the oyster industry and the overall Mississippi economy.