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Oystermen May Soon Return to Mississippi Reefs

By Rhonda Miller | Published 14 Feb 2012 08:49pm | comments
Harold Hudson

Mississippi oystermen have had almost no oysters to harvest for the past two seasons. Now, as MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports, they may soon have a chance to get back to work.

At Pass Christian harbor, fishermen are working on their boats when they’d rather be fishing. For the past two seasons, there have been almost no oysters since the crop was mostly destroyed by the BP oil spill, then floodwaters from the Mississippi River.  Bobby Pinkerton of Long Beach says something’s got to change.

"It’s been tough as a fisherman to make a living right now. You sit at home and hopefully you’ve saved up enough money from the seasons past, you know to make it, but it’s been tough, brutally tough, trying to raise a family."

Oystermen will get a chance to work in the next week or so when the state plans to open some of the reefs near Pass Christian. It won’t be for dredging, but only for tonging, which is using long poles, in shallow water.

Harold Hudson is working on his boat and a friend’s boat. He says when the state opens the waters for oystering, he hopes the catch is worth more than the cost of fuel, boat maintenance and a deckhand.

"Well, I’m not doing anything else and if I don’t take a chance at it, I can’t make nothing at all, because I depend on fishing strictly for a living."

Darlene Kimball is a seafood broker at Pass Christian harbor. She remembers a few years ago, before the BP oil spill, when she was unloading 80 oyster boats a day.

"Well,  it would be great if there’s oysters out there. We opened up back in October and it wasn’t very good. A lot of guys didn’t even go, and even when they did go, they didn’t catch anything. I think it’s wonderful if we can harvest some. It would boost the economy right here in our little harbor, because right now, it’s like a ghost town, there’s really nothing going on."

Shellfish director for the Department of Marine Resources, Scott Gordon, says even though the oyster crop has a long way to go for a full recovery, opening some reefs is worth a try.

"Well, we saw some encouraging signs and some of the oyster fishermen wanted to take a look for themselves, see if the densities of the oysters in that area are high enough that they can be tonged."

Oystermen will be back at work when the state completes required testing for water quality. 

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Harold Hudson


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