Sixty-one boats hit the water this morning for the first day of the Department of Marine Resource's Oyster Recovery Program.
Most of the boats harvested oysters that were then off loaded onto a barge in Bayou Caddy in Hancock County, DMR spokeswoman Melissa Scallan said.
A few of the larger boats were escorted by Marine Patrol and put their oysters on a reef in Pass Christian.
Oystermen have been out of work since late last year when a Red Tide algae bloom closed the reefs. Now, the oysters would be destroyed by a surge of fresh water expected to flood the Sound after the Bonnet Carre spillway was opened to mitigate damage in south Louisiana from the Mississippi River flood. Fresh water from the flood could start filling the Sound as early as Tuesday but it is not expected to be as bad as the 2011 flood that decimated the oyster reefs, Scallan said.
The program is trying to save the oysters and give the oystermen a source of income until they can resume fishing.
The plan is to take oysters from the St. Joe Reef in Hancock to reefs in the eastern part of Pass Christian and Biloxi Bay.