LOUISIANA — Commercial oyster harvests east of the Mississippi River are at historic lows, according to officials with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). The low commercial harvest of sack-sized oysters, (3” in length or larger) is consistent with low spat sets or a lack of juvenile oysters attaching to reef for grow out since the start of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Oyster harvests in the same locations were near historic highs in 2009, but a dramatic decrease in spat sets and adult oysters have public officials concerned. “We are monitoring the conditions as we have historically done and have seen the amount of harvestable sack-sized oysters decrease over the last few years,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. “The science is consistent with what we have heard from some oyster fishermen and dealers in anecdotal reports. Despite some claims that have been made publicly, the oyster industry has not been made whole. We have a long way to go before we know the full scope of impacts in the Gulf, but what we are currently seeing worries us.”
LDWF officials say data gathered through fisheries biologists’ observations confirms ongoing issues with oyster stocks; however, a direct cause is not yet evident. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) is ongoing. Part of that assessment is examining impacts to commercially important species in the Gulf of Mexico, including oysters. As the NRDA is ongoing, results from those studies are not yet available, but NRDA work plans, including those for impacts to oysters, are available here.
LDWF completed several cultch plants on historically productive public oyster seed grounds along the coast following the oil spill, including two Emergency Restoration cultch plants, one in the Mississippi Sound and a second in California Bay. A NRDA Early Restoration project, the Louisiana Oyster Cultch Project, also includes six cultch plants on public seed grounds. Cultch plants in Hackberry Bay, Sister Lake, Lake Fortuna and South Black Bay were conducted in 2012. In the spring of 2013, the remaining two cultch plants will be done, one in 3-Mile Bay and a second in Drum Bay.