Oyster gardening has been taking place seasonally in Alabama for almost 20 years, but 2017 was the first year for oyster gardening in Mississippi. Through the program, volunteers are supplied with all of the materials to grow oyster spat into juvenile oysters from their piers throughout the summer and fall. These oysters are then planted on restoration reefs, where they do their part to increase the ecological health and diversity of the region.
The inaugural season was a great success with over 15,000 oysters grown across the Mississippi Coast! This represents a restorative potential of 0.81 acres. We are now looking forward to a major program expansion for the 2018 season. In order to get as many people involved in oyster gardening as possible, the program will no longer be limited to those living in unrestricted areas. This means that many locations that were previously off limits to oyster gardening, including the Back Bay of Biloxi, will now be able to participate.
Our school gardening locations will also be expanding this season. For the first year, we had two locations, which were both very successful in providing a hands-on component to the science curriculum. Students from St. Stanislaus College even presented their oyster gardening experience at the Ocean Sciences Meeting this month! Education remains a key component to the program, and thanks to our enthusiastic teachers, students get the opportunity to learn about oyster reefs up close.
If you are interested in becoming an oyster gardener or have any questions about the program, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.