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DMR repairing oyster reefs damaged by 2015 spillway opening

A restoration project for oyster reefs in the western portion of the Mississippi Sound will continue in August.
A restoration project for oyster reefs in the western portion of the Mississippi Sound will continue in August. Sun Herald File

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources is moving forward with restoring oyster reefs in the western part of the Mississippi Sound.

The project, which began its first phase in May, will enter phase two in August, when 160 acres of cultch material will be added to several reefs in Pass Christian, Henderson Point, Pass Marianne and St. Joe.

The project is funded through NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service as a result of the 2011 opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway, which damaged both the oyster and crab fisheries in Mississippi.

“The purpose of this project is to restore Mississippi’s oyster reefs and increase future production,” said Erik Broussard, director of DMR’s shelfish bureau in a news release. “By the end of the year, we will have planted more than 600 acres of cultch material. We also will do an additional planting next spring to continue restoration efforts.”

Broussard said fishermen with crab traps in these areas need to move them until the cultch planting is complete.

DMR applied for a cultivation permit in 2016 under the Coastal Wetlands Protection Act. The permit was the first step in a long-term restoration project that will be implemented over 10 years. The permit request says about 3,500 acres of almost 24,000 acres of reefs will be cultivated.

Oystermen, or those who fish commercially for oysters, claim they have had a hard go with with oyster production over the past few years due to a series of issues including Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill, the spillway flooding and the red tide algae bloom of 2015, which delayed oyster season from December to February 2016.

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