MASGC Project Impacts

Volunteers grow oysters for reef restoration

Relevance:

The Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program in Alabama is volunteer-based project that focuses on education, restoration/enhancement and research by bringing the reef to the people. Now in its twelfth year of operation, the oyster gardening program has produced nearly 750,000 oysters for restoration and enhancement efforts within Mobile Bay. 

Response:

Volunteers around Mobile Bay grow juvenile oysters from their wharves to be planted on restoration sites in Mobile Bay and the Mississippi Sound. In 2015, volunteers from 35 sites successfully grew and planted 43,571 oysters with a mean height of 53.5mm.

Results:

The oysters planted by volunteers in 2015 were sufficient to restore 2.15 acres of reef with an economic value estimated at $41,464.88.

Recap:

Volunteer oyster gardening citizen scientists, in partnership with MASGC Extension, restored up to 2.15 acres of oyster reef with a value of $41,464.88. (2015)

Trawl gear programming reduces operation costs of Gulf of Mexico shrimpers

Relevance:

Diesel engines power the majority of fishing vessels in the United States, and diesel fuel is the largest component of operating costs on Gulf shrimp vessels. To survive, shrimpers need to increase fuel efficiency to decrease operational costs.

Response:

The use of energy-efficient trawl gear with less drag can reduce fuel costs. The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) conducted field research and documented the fuel savings and catch retention associated with available energy-efficient trawl gear and more efficient turtle excluder/bycatch reduction devices. To inform decision-making, MASGC shared the results with fishermen through gear demonstrations at dockside visits and as part of other outreach efforts. Vietnamese-Americans with limited English language skills own and operate a large percentage of the offshore fishing fleet in the northern Gulf. An MASGC staff member used his Vietnamese language skills to reach this underserved clientele group.

Results:

Over 20 shrimp vessels have adopted the use of energy-efficient trawl gear. All reported fuel savings similar to the field trials, and most have continued to use the gear. Based on conservative estimates of fuel savings (1.5 gallons per hour, a 12-hour fishing day, 180 days per year and fuel cost of $3 per gallon), each vessel is saving about $10,000 a year in operating costs. Cost savings continue to accrue and are greater with rising fuel costs. Total savings to the fleet has topped $1 million since the program’s inception.

Recap:

MASGC programming leads Gulf shrimp fishermen to adopt energy-efficient trawl gear and save over $1 million in operating costs. (2014)

Integrated program responsible for the creation of oyster farming industry in Alabama

Relevance:

The Gulf Coast oyster industry has suffered a number of setbacks, both natural and manmade, that are challenging an industry built around inexpensive, plentiful oysters. Off-bottom oyster farming for the high-value, half-shell niche market, as practiced on the northeast and Pacific coasts, provides an opportunity for Gulf residents to create jobs, increase profits and diversify the oyster industry.

Response:

Sea Grant-funded scientists established two large oyster farming parks that serve as platforms for training and business development, as part of a partnership between Louisiana Sea Grant, the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC), Auburn University, and Louisiana State University. The parks demonstrate grow-out and harvesting technology and techniques. Scientists also provided technical advice and evaluations of possible sites to potential oyster farmers. Along with scientists, Sea Grant legal specialists were integral in providing research to inform passage of state legislation that clarified and simplified the permitting process.

Results:

Nine new commercial oyster farms have been established in Alabama, with a total farm-gate value exceeding $825,000 to date, which is expected to more than double in 2015, increasing incomes and generation of local jobs (at least 6 full-time positions and over 10 part-time positions). At least 5 wholesalers in Alabama also profited from the sales of these oysters. Two new oyster equipment companies were established in Alabama, with total sales inception well over $100,000. Several applications for new commercial farms are pending the results of the governor’s review board mandated by Alabama HB 361 (on which Dr. Walton served). This work has also led the Gulf Oyster Industry Council to invite Dr. Walton to participate in their annual ‘Walk on the Hill’ in Washington, D.C. as a technical advisor on oyster farming since 2012. In partnership with Organized Seafood Association of Alabama (OSAA), MASGC has conducted a hands-on training program Oyster Farming Fundamentals, which has trained 16 adult students that have collectively raised 350,000 oyster seed, and developing a “vo-tech” program that trains high school students to be oyster farmers.

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant research and outreach leads to development of commercial off-bottom oyster farming industry in Alabama that approaches $1 million per year. (2014)

Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Drill Conductor Training

Relevance:

Commercial fishing continues to be the most dangerous occupation in the United States. According to National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH) fatality statistics for the commercial fishing industry, almost a quarter (9, 24%) of the 2010 fatalities occurred in the shrimp fishery, seven of which were in the Gulf of Mexico. To address commercial fishing-related fatalities, federal law requires that captains of vessels operating in federal waters ensure that crew members receive safety instructions and onboard safety drills are conducted once a month by certified Commercial Fishing Vessel Drill Conductors. A limited number of trainers are available to offer courses in the Gulf of Mexico, which can make it difficult for the Gulf fleet to operate in compliance with the law.

Response:

To meet this educational need, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) outreach personnel obtained U.S. Coast Guard certification to offer Commercial Fishing Vessel Drill Conductor training courses. MASGC organized and implemented two 12-hour courses for 25 professional fishermen in 2014. Upon completion of the course, the fishermen met Coast Guard requirements to become certified Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Drill Conductors. MASGC was able to provide most of the oral and written material in the Vietnamese and English languages.

Results:

To date, a total of 73 fishermen in Mississippi and Alabama have become Coast Guard Certified Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Drill conductors as a result of MASGC’s role in organizing and implementing training.

Recap:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium helps commercial fishermen meet U.S. Coast Guard safety drill requirements by offering training to fishermen (many who speak Vietnamese) that allows them to obtain certification. (2014)

HACCP training helps local seafood business retain national supermarket account

Relevance:

The national economic downturn negatively impacted a large cross section of water-dependent businesses along the Mississippi and Alabama coasts. Low seafood prices and complex seafood processing regulations have adversely impacted many sectors including the seafood industry.

Response:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) extension specialists worked with processors to ensure that their Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) training was up to date so they could remain operational. 

Results:

HACCP training by an MASGC extension specialist prevented one seafood processor from losing a significant national supermarket chain account and shutting down permanently because its employees did not have adequate HACCP training. Working with the owners of the processing company, MASGC quickly certified employees in HACCP, and the operation reopened within 36 hours. This training saved the account and the business. 

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium enabled a local seafood business to remain open and retain a contract with a major national supermarket chain. (2014) 

Inland shrimp farming operations improve production projects by increasing survival juvenile shrimp

Relevance:

Poor survival of post-larvae shrimp following acclimation to low-salinity waters has been a problem for farmers raising shrimp inland since the beginning of the west Alabama inland shrimp industry in 1999. As post-larvae are a significant expense for inland farmers, improved acclimation techniques were required to increase survival and subsequently improve profit margins.

Response:

A growth trial was conducted at different salinities and temperatures to explore the effects on growth and survival of juvenile shrimp. Another study was conducted to evaluate how various aqueous sodium-potassium ratios at different temperatures impacted survival, growth and osmoregulatory capacity of shrimp. Researchers are transferring research results to local farmers to improve on-site acclimation of post-larval shrimp.

Results:

Alabama producers are now more aware of the effects of shifting temperature and salinity and their effects on shrimp survival. Adoption of these techniques has led to better survival during the production season. Increased survival at acclimation has allowed farmers to increase their production at harvest by more than 500 pounds per acre compared to when the study began in 2008. The annual economic impact is approximately $1,200,000 to date ($200,000 per year).

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant improved acclimation techniques that inland shrimp farmers in Alabama use, thus increasing survival and production of shrimp by 500 pounds per acre. (2014)