Mississippi’s oyster season could re-open soon. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports on some good news – finally – for the state’s oyster industry.
The Department of Marine Resources says it will re-open oyster season as soon as rainfall and river stages are at required levels. That could be as soon as this week.
Testing has shown state waters and oysters are clear from the harmful algae bloom from earlier this winter. Officials thought it might take months to re-open the oyster season, but Marine Fisheries director Joe Jewell says the red tide dissipated quicker than expected.
"And then, we were able to bypass the long line at the Florida laboratory by having our samples pre-screened by the laboratory, and then sent to the FDA-certified lab in Maine, which did not have a long line and processed our samples quickly," he says.
Jewell also says the agency's initial findings are that the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway has had minimal effects so far.
"Which is good news, so when we do open there will be relatively good resources available for the oyster fishermen," he says.
The agency says fishermen moved nearly 40-thousand sacks during an emergency program after the spillway was opened, and those oysters seem to be faring well. Fisherman James A. “Catfish” Miller says he’d like to see more programs like this, that put fishermen to work to restore the industry and also share the grant money that’s available.
He’d also like to see more areas opened, especially in the eastern Mississippi Sound.
"There's oysters we ain't touched in 30 years down there, and imagine what the crop of oysters look like down there," he says. "And I'm sure they're there. They ain't went anywhere."
The DMR is working on getting more data on the eastern reefs to see if they can be opened for harvesting as well.