Workers processing oysters at a Louisiana seafood plant. (Photo: Louisiana Seafood News)
Post-Isaac Louisiana gets ready for oyster season
Friday, September 28, 2012, 23:40 (GMT + 9)
Louisiana’s oyster community has made progress in many areas since Hurricane Isaac struck. Where business is not back to normal, farmers and harvesters continue to assess damage to oyster beds and dig out.
State health officials tested for bacteria and other contaminants in all of the state’s oyster areas before they were cleared and reopened.
“All of Louisiana’s active oyster harvest areas are operational, except for small segments of Area 12 that have been closed since the 2010 spill,” the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals said, Louisiana Seafood News reports.
Preliminary reports from state officials tell that Hurricane Isaac may have ruined 20-30 per cent of the state's remaining oyster crop. At the same time, scientists are reporting evidence of one of the best oyster reproductive cycles seen since the BP oil spill in 2010, which may have been triggered by the hurricane, noted Mike Voisin, a member of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission and chief executive of Motivatit Seafoods, Daily Comet reports.
Hard-hit areas now need to determine the full extent of the damage to oyster beds caused by debris and silt that can suffocate oysters. Still, the outcome for the oyster industry is generally good, Voisin clarified.
“Oysters are back on the menu for September, the kick-off of oyster season,” Voisin said.
In Louisiana, about 10,000 people make a living from the state’s USD 350-million oyster industry. Normally, the state, which is the nation’s top oyster producer, yields 250 million lb of in-shell oysters yearly.
The reopening was especially well-timed for September’s Louisiana Seafood Restaurant Week.
Traditionally, the heaviest producer of Louisiana oysters was in the eastern Mississippi River area, said Voisin.
“But, given the challenges of Deepwater Horizon and other issues, the Terrebone Parish, which is the area between Bayou Lafourche and the Atchafalaya River, has been the most productive recently,” he elaborated.
There are about 1.6 million ac of public oyster grounds run by the state of Louisiana and another 400,000 ac are under private leases worked by oyster farmers, added Voisin. Unlike the public grounds, these farms are open for oyster harvesting year-round.
Voisin anticipates that oyster farmers and harvesters will be seeking clean-up funds from federal agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to repair damages.
“We feel bad about any delays in production,” said Voisin. “But, we want to be sure we’re producing a safe, high-quality product – which we always do.”
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By Natalia Real