Research, outreach facilitate creation of first commercial oyster farms in northern Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf Coast oyster industry has suffered a number of setbacks, both natural and manmade, challenging an industry built around inexpensive, plentiful oysters. Off-bottom oyster farming for the 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.
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, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, 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, legal researchers were integral in passing state legislation that clarified and simplified the permitting process.
Eight oyster farms in Alabama and Louisiana have more than 9 acres in production. Since the aquaculture project began in 2010, at least 585,000 oysters have gone to market with a wholesale value of at least $225,000. The oyster farms have created four long-term, part-time jobs. Three aquaculture gear distributors also have opened businesses. Legislation was passed that clarified and simplified the permitting process in both states. In Alabama, for example, legislation passed in 2013 reduced initial permitting confusion and out-of-pocket expenses by more than $5,000.
Commercial off-bottom oyster farming was established in Alabama and Louisiana, and larger oyster farm parks now serve as centers for industry development. (2013)