Farming the Fertile Crescent: Intensification of oyster culture in the northern Gulf of Mexico


  1. By 2011, at least two areas appropriate for demonstration oyster farms and at least ten other areas appropriate for private leasing for intensive oyster culture will be identified.
  2. By 2011, at least two demonstration commercial oyster farms within the northern Gulf of Mexico will be permitted and established.
  3. By 2013, at least 12 individuals will have begun start-up oyster farms and at least 6 will have obtained permits to establish independent oyster farms.
  4. By 2015, at least 6 individuals in the northern Gulf of Mexico will be earning at least $25,000/year on average from intensive oyster farming.
  5. By 2013, at least 20 individuals will be knowledgeable about the fundamentals of intensive oyster farming, based on pre- and post-testing.
  6. By 2013, at least 100 individuals in the northern Gulf of Mexico will have increased their awareness of intensive oyster aquaculture, based on post-workshop surveys.
  7. By 2013, oyster hatchery and nursery capacity will exceed 1 million oyster seed (retained on 6 mm mesh) per year.
  8. By 2011, naturally spawned triploid oysters derived from Gulf of Mexico broodstock will be available for commercial production.
  9. By 2013, over 100 oyster harvesters will increase their understanding of food safety requirements and available post-harvest treatment processes.
  10. By 2013, 10,000 consumers will be aware of the availability of intensively cultured oysters from the Gulf of Mexico.
  11. By 2012, external funding will be obtained to support analysis of differences in contamination associated with oil pollution between wild harvested, on-bottom cultured, and off-bottom cultured oysters.


The primary goal of the proposed work is to allow adoption and implementation of intensive oyster culture by coastal citizens within the northern Gulf of Mexico, increasing productivity, creating jobs and providing a safe, sustainable domestic supply. This will be achieved by; (1) addressing marine spatial planning & site selection; (2) creation of aquaculture training areas; (3) oyster aquaculture training; (4) adding shellfish hatchery and nursery capacity to support industry development; (5) promotion of food safety; (6) assistance with promotion and marketing of cultured oysters; and (7) response to Deepwater Horizon incident. This outreach plan will present information and demonstration of intensive oyster culture techniques that will benefit stakeholders by:

  • Educating and assisting state permitting and management agencies of the potential production, environmental and employment benefits of such change;
  • Educating and assisting local, county and state governments with applying new, progressive ideas for their constituents;
  • Providing new entrepreneurial opportunities specifically to the existing oyster industry and to coastal communities in general; and,
  • Providing a new component to coastal economies through the initiation and subsequent success of new businesses providing culture systems and supplies, oyster seedstock, and high quality oysters for market.

The deliverables from this project will include;

  • A training manual entitled "Fundamentals of Intensive Oyster Culture for the Gulf of Mexico"
  • Annual Fundamentals of Intensive Oyster Culture workshops conducted in LA, MS and AL.
  • An online and hard copy version of Microsoft Excel-based enterprise budget for growers to conduct cost analyses and profitability
  • A one-page Likert-scale survey instrument to test consumer acceptance and appeal
  • An annual program commitment and/or lease document(s) to be signed by program applicants that provide written commitments of both participants and program managers.


The desired state of northern Gulf of Mexico oyster communities is to have vibrant, growing business climate with unlimited resource and supply. This has been difficult to achieve. Wild production is highly cyclical. In fact, the number of oyster businesses has been declining due to poor profitability and changing norms (Deseran and Ridden, 2000). The utilization of oyster hatchery technology is historic in the Northwest (Quail and Newkirk, 1989) and growing on the east coast (Congrove et al., 2009). It has great application in northern gulf as well, because of prolific, natural productivity of its coastal waters. Applying advanced oyster culture methods to the region makes good sense. Its success will help defeat the Tragedy of the Commons (Harden, 1968) and demonstrate that sea farming within this region can:

  • Support livelihoods, both part- and full-time, in the same, independent lifestyle as fisheries, but with greater controls that farming brings;
  • Work in harmony with other users and interests through progressive marine special planning;
  • Provide a clean, green industry with intrinsic, measurable environmental contributions that can support jobs;
  • Produce seafood of high value that nature can’t (e.g., triploid oysters and disease-resistant stocks); and,
  • Instill a new economy to an old industry.