Mississippi’s oyster season officially opened Nov. 10, but after recent heavy rains caused higher river stages, state reefs have only been open for two days. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, good weather has led to hopes the reefs may re-open soon.
Darlene Kimball's family has had a business here at the Pass Christian harbor for 85 years. During the two days the oyster season has been open so far, Kimball says the oysters looked good.
"They were fat and they were salty, and they were very pretty," she says. "But unfortunately the river stages were high, and they had to shut [the season] down. When they did shut it down, I tried to save as many Mississippi sacks, Pass Christian reef sacks, as I could, but we've already sold all those."
Kimball is hopeful the season will re-open this weekend, so there'll be plenty available for oyster dressing on local Thanksgiving tables.
"For people who are interested in them for next week, say a prayer," she says. "Hopefully everything will work out fine and we'll have oyster season open back up. And if it's bad, we'll still have oysters, but it might be from another state - Louisiana or wherever we can get them from."
Earlier this week, the Commission on Marine Resources raised the individual sack limits and also set an overall 35,000 sack limit. Jamie Miller is head of the Department of Marine Resources.
"Last year, we did about 25,000 sacks, the year before that was about 70,000 - but in our best years in MIssissippi, we've done half a million sacks," he says. "The numbers are very low, it's still disappointing, we're still trying to grow the resource back. So that's a conservative number, but probably the right amount."
The commission also put a moratorium on new oyster licenses.
"I think the commission - given the resource that we have, they wanted to reduce the pressure on that resource," Miller says. "And so they felt like the number of current licences purchased for this season was sufficient, and they didn't want to see a large increase in the number of fishermen that may be working the reefs this season."
But, Miller added, "they did provide for, if someone had a hardship or for some reason did not get their license, they could make that appeal to the executive director."