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Join us to learn about Mississippi’s new volunteer oyster growing program

By: PJ Waters / Published: Jul 14,  2016

Do you like oysters?

Ever thought about growing some?

We are excited to announce that oyster gardening is coming to Mississippi! Programs across the country have been raising oysters for restoration purposes and now, you may have the opportunity to play a role in restoring oyster reefs in Mississippi. It is simple, interesting and above all FUN.

Volunteer gardeners receive juvenile oysters called ‘spat’ (about the size of a dime) set on whole shell in the summer. 

Oyster gardens protect vulnerable juvenile oysters called spat (attached to the larger shells) from predation. They may not look like much now, but in a couple months, these baby oysters will grow to fill this garden.
Oyster gardens protect vulnerable juvenile oysters called spat (attached to the larger shells) from predation. They may not look like much now, but in a couple months, these baby oysters will grow to fill this garden.

They raise them in small gardens suspended from their wharfs. The gardens offer protection to the oysters from predators during their critical nursery phase.

In November, the oysters are collected and planted on restoration reef sites within Mississippi waters.  The oysters will have grown significantly, generally averaging 2.5 inches. Further, as water temperatures rise in the spring, these oysters will spawn, producing millions of additional larvae for the system.

Oyster gardens will fill as juvenile oysters grow from now through November. While at the gardening sites, they function as oyster reefs, providing habitat and filtration.
Oyster gardens will fill as juvenile oysters grow from now through November. While at the gardening sites, they function as oyster reefs, providing habitat and filtration.

A restored reef provides tremendous habitat as well as filtration potential. This program, like its sister programs in Alabama and elsewhere will seek to provide a hands on opportunity for citizens interested in the health of Mississippi coastal ecosystems, or maybe just like potential to improve fishing around the wharf. 

This is a short overview of an exciting opportunity in Mississippi. We will have more details on Saturday, July 30, at 10 a.m. at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center when we will be speaking at the Saturday Seminar. I look forward to seeing many of you there.  You can also reach us at oystergardening@masgc.org.

Ocean Springs High School is running a pilot site for the program. Some students, with aquaculture teacher Brian Butler, are pictured here with their oyster gardens.
Ocean Springs High School is running a pilot site for the program. Some students, with aquaculture teacher Brian Butler, are pictured here with their oyster gardens.

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