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The Gulf of Mexico Shellfish Initiative: A regional approach to increasing shellfish resources

By: Beth Walton / Published: Jun 15,  2017

For many years, various stakeholder groups in each of the Gulf states have been discussing ways to increase shellfish abundance and resources, but often with a focus on one component: the public fisheries, restoration for environmental benefits or aquaculture. The Gulf of Mexico Shellfish Initiative (or GoMexSI) is an ambitious effort to tackle this from all these different perspectives (restoration, traditional fisheries, and aquaculture) across the region. 

With funding from the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, our team will be seeking input from stakeholders in each state – through small groups, an online survey, in-person and phone interviews – to find out what we want as a community.

Gulf of Mexico Shellfish Initiative Coordinator Beth Walton leads Mississippi stakeholders in a discussion about shellfish resources on June 5 in Ocean Springs, Miss.
Gulf of Mexico Shellfish Initiative Coordinator Beth Walton leads Mississippi stakeholders in a discussion about shellfish resources on June 5 in Ocean Springs, Miss.

GoMeXSI is based on NOAA’s National Shellfish Initiative and draws from other state Shellfish Initiatives. GoMexSI, like all these initiatives, has the overall goal to increase populations of bivalve shellfish in our nation’s coastal waters including oysters, clams, abalone and mussels through both sustainable commercial production and restoration activities. Unlike the other efforts, GoMexSI is the first regional effort in the country, and is an opportunity to gain national attention to our shellfish resources and the people that depend on them.

Based on feedback from stakeholders, GoMexSI will set region-wide goals, while also having specific objectives to achieve these broad goals within each state. GoMexSI will help strengthen future partnerships between groups and provide potential leverage for funding to complete goals. 

Possible examples include improved water quality, public-private partnerships to increase shellfish resources, and creating sustainable water-dependent jobs.


Mississippi stakeholders discuss shellfish resources in the state and the Gulf during a Gulf of Mexico Shellfish Initiative meeting.
Mississippi stakeholders discuss shellfish resources in the state and the Gulf during a Gulf of Mexico Shellfish Initiative meeting.

We have through the end of the year to complete this first phase of the Shellfish Initiative. I welcome your feedback and suggestions as we pull together a draft framework of GoMexSI goals and objectives. And of course, I am glad to provide more information if you or your organization are interested in becoming a part of this effort.

For more on GoMexSI, please visit our website.

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