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Mississippi Limits Oyster Season
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Oyster fishermen on the Biloxi Bay reef (Nov 2016)
MS Department of Marine Resources

A limited oyster season is scheduled to open at sunrise today. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, the state’s oysters continue to struggle, with this year's harvest capped at just 10,000 sacks total.

That cap is 30 percent of what the state Department of Marine Resources estimates is currently on Mississippi's reefs.

Paul Mickle, the DMR’s chief scientific officer, says back-to-back years of heavy spring rains along with warm water temperatures have been deadly to oysters.

"So hopefully we're out of that natural pattern, and these mortality events will go away because we really haven't seen those in the past before," Mickle says. "We have a lot of oyster data over a lot of years. We've had mortality events, but nothing on that scale.

"We really have nothing in our data sets to show what we've seen in the past two years to compare to. It's very atypical, which I'm really hoping is in the past and behind us," he says.

The DMR hopes that by limiting the season, the young oysters on the reefs will have a chance to grow.

DMR executive director Jamie Miller says the state is continuing to work on a number of fronts to grow Mississippi's oysters. It has a number of oyster farming, or aquaculture, projects and is also building up the reefs.

"We have agressively gone out and done what they refer to as cultch plants, which is when we put out shale, or rocks, or broken concrete to allow these young larvae to attach to," Miller says.

Today's opening is on the Biloxi Bay Reef, where about 600 sacks are available based on that 30 percent limit. Another oyster season will open in the western Mississippi Sound, just before  Thanksgiving on Nov. 13. About 9,000 sacks will be available there.