Putting Innovative Approaches Like “Oyster Farming” Into Action On a Large Scale


It’s going to be a long hard road to recovery for our seafood industry. Damage from the BP oil spill has created, and will continue to create, both long-term and short-term challenges that the industry will need to overcome – from rebuilding the Gulf seafood “brand” to restoring fragile breeding and feeding grounds.

As we face these challenges, we should remember the lessons and impacts of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. For example, some fishing stocks were fine for a couple of years, then they simply vanished. Research from the Exxon Valdez spill will provide valuable insight as we begin the restoration process.

A good example is “oyster farming,” which has worked in other places but not gotten much economic traction in the Gulf – in part because our “wild caught” oysters have been plentiful and safe. In part because they are often eaten raw and in part because of their position within the food chain, oysters get special attention when it comes to oil spill pollution.

Thus, enter oyster farming. The Auburn University Shellfish Lab is working on raising oysters in mesh cages, where they can be hoisted out of the water to avoid pollution, such as that from an oil spill. Farming consistently develops high-quality oysters, the kind valued by the finest restaurants. At one demonstration site at Pointe aux Pines near Bayou La Batre, it’s reported that they have four rows of oysters – 200,000 in all – suspended in wire cages in waist-deep water. It’s easy to see how that operation could be increased in scope as a way to hasten the recovery of our oyster production.

Rebuilding the seafood industry won’t be easy and it won’t happen over night, but now is the time to put some of our research and innovative approaches into action. It’s not hard to imagine that if the government loses on its huge gamble that Gulf seafood is safe (despite credible research to the contrary), “FARMED” may become just the sort of brand people will trust.

Read more about “oyster farming” here: http://blog.al.com/live/2010/10/auburns_oyster_research_area_f.html

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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