Task force seeks cancellation of La. oyster season
A task force of Louisiana oyster harvesters and dealers wants the state to cancel the 2010-2011 oyster harvesting season scheduled in public oyster waters east of the Mississippi River.
The proposed cancellation of a season currently set to open Nov. 15 would not affect private year-round oyster leases on either side of the river, some of which have been reopening following the Gulf oil spill.
The Louisiana Oyster Task Force voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to seek the cancellation of the season east of the river and in Hackberry Bay west of the river. They said allowing oyster dredging in those areas would likely kill young “spat” oysters and endanger future seasons for an industry already hurting because of the oil spill.
Oyster processor Mike Voisin of Terrebonne Parish, west of the river, was the lone opponent of closing the season. He said keeping available oysters off the market could hurt the industry in the long run by leading sellers to turn to out-of-state products and imports.
Supporters of the cancellation included oyster harvesters who have private leases but also harvest the oyster spat for transplanting on those leases.
Oyster harvesters in much of Louisiana have been hurt either by oil contamination, closures due to the threat of oil contamination or the flooding of the salty oyster areas with fresh water, which is harmful to oysters but which was diverted into the areas in hopes of keeping the oil out.
St. Bernard Parish oyster dealer and task force member Dana Brocato said allowing dredging in the areas east of the river would do more harm than good. “If you rape and pillage it now, what are you going to have in the future?” she said.
Voisin said he was sensitive to the concerns expressed by Brocato and others but added that there will be oysters suitable for marketing in the area. He urged a delay but was outvoted. It will be up to the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to make the final decision.
Task Force Chairman John Tesvich, a processor who did not vote, said the percentage of the state’s oyster harvest that comes from the public areas varies from year to year, sometimes more than half, sometimes less.
Source: Task force seeks cancellation of La. oyster season – BusinessWeek