Help save the oyster industry and help the environment by gardening oysters. Oysters are a critical part of the coastal ecosystem and our local economy. Raise young oysters until they are ready to move to established Gulf reefs. Join the efforts to keep the Coast prospering!
- by Susan Putnam
During hurricane season along the Coast, it’s easy to remember the destructive nature of storms. A hurricane’s devastation, however, goes well beyond destroyed homes and blown-over trees. Major storms can obliterate the local economy. Seafood is a critical component of the economy, and we feel the loss all along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In particular, there has been a rapid decline of the oyster industry in the Gulf of Mexico. This decline affects our economy in multiple ways, primarily in the reduced income for oystermen, loss of revenue for restaurants and seafood markets, and loss of local jobs, not to mention the negative effect on our water quality. But there is renewed hope for the revitalization of our beloved oyster industry.
Citizens, meet the Mississippi Oyster Gardening Program. This program is designed to leverage the personal drive of citizens to get directly involved in the “gardening” of very young oysters (spat), caring for and cultivating them until they are ready to be “transplanted” by program managers onto an established reef system. The additional spat not only vastly supplements the natural colonies of existing oysters but also powerfully impacts rebuilding our oyster beds.
You may wonder, What does an oyster gardener do? Or you may think, This seems too complicated for me. However, it is easy to be an oyster gardener. The gardens are suspended on a pier and placed by program managers. All a gardener needs to do is perform simple tasks every one to two weeks to ensure the garden is free of debris and predators. Keeping the garden clean allows water to flow, bringing in oxygen and vital nutrients to the young oysters, allowing them to grow toward maturity. Your tour of duty will last about six months, after which the garden will be transplanted to an established reef system in the Gulf.
Oyster “gardening” is a fun and rewarding experience and a great way for local citizens to provide a valued service. You can participate in rebuilding the oyster industry while improving our environment. You can learn more about this program and how you can help here through the links below.
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