Southern Mississippi Sun Herald|
Oyster test bed to be planted in polluted waters
By GREG HARMAN
BAY ST. LOUIS - Feb 7, 2021 - The Mississippi
Department of Marine Resources has worked for years to
enhance commercial oyster habitat in state waters. Several
smaller oyster beds have even been planted to help improve
recreational fishing opportunities by diversifying the
But this year, the agency has embarked on something new,
an oyster bed planting in polluted waters intended to
demonstrate the oyster's ability to clean contamination
from the water and improve overall aquatic habitat.
"There's a lot of high hopes," said DMR Staff Officer
Joe Jewell, a co-author on the $24,990 grant funded through
the Gulf of Mexico Foundation. "A lot of people are
concerned about water quality."
The five acres of oysters to be planted in coming months
will be on the northern side of the Bay of St. Louis off
Grassy Point, which is regularly off limits to oyster
harvesting because of high fecal coliform bacteria counts.
The new beds aren't expected to transform the bay, but the
project could supply some good data for future projects.
"We're hoping for the best, but also as scientists we
have to be very cautious," Jewell said. After all, a good
prolonged rain could flush so much freshwater through the
reef that it may not be able to reproduce at all. "Hopefully we can get a decent spat set," he said.
George Ramseur of The Nature Conservancy, a non-profit
conservation organization and one of the partners on the
grant, said many are watching the project. "The filtering capacity of oysters is really
incredible," Ramseur said. "It's bound to produce some
While the year-long grant doesn't offer enough time to
determine the viability of the reef's placement or
performance, the DMR will continue to monitor it for about
five years, Jewel said. "We're hoping it will be there a whole lot longer and be
successful on its own," he said.
Meanwhile, the University of Southern Mississippi's J.L.
Scott Aquarium, another project partner, will be developing
an exhibit to discuss the undertaking and educate the
public about the filtering capacity of oysters. "We want the public to know we're doing this, especially
if we are successful," Jewel said.
The planting is planned for April and May, with bids for
the project going out later this month, said Dale Diaz,
shellfish project coordinator at the DMR.
Other partners include the Mississippi-Alabama SeaGrant
Consortium, Coast Conservation Association, Gulf Fishery
Banks, U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor's office and the Gulf
Ecological Management Sites program.
A second grant being pursued through the Fish America
Foundation may see a similar reef planted in the Back Bay
of Biloxi, near the DMR offices.
Gulf of Mexico Foundation - PMB 51, 5403
Everhart - Corpus Christi, TX 78411
(800) 884-4175 toll free - (361) 882-3939 phone
- (361) 882-1262 fax