Alabama closes some oystering areas, sparking complaints

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DAUPHIN ISLAND. Ala. — Alabama officials closed some oystering ground in Mobile Bay, prompting complaints by harvesters. The Alabama Marine Resource Division’s decision to close some oystering grounds in Mobile Bay is part of an ongoing effort to protect wild oyster reefs from overharvesting.

The state closed the western half of its oystering area in Mobile Bay on Nov. 23, WKRG-TV reports, and closed two small but productive areas in the eastern half of the bay on Tuesday.

Meeting oyster harvesters on Dauphin Island Scott Bannon, AMRD director, stated that the closure was part in an effort to rebuild the state’s bivalve population.

“Unfortunately, there’s just not enough oyster harvest available to do a longer season and to maintain that,” Bannon told the television station. We would love to do this. We’d love to keep Alabama product in the market longer; we would love for them to be working longer and making good money.”

Some harvesters say the state is cutting off their main source of income during the peak winter season for Gulf oysters.

“They shut down us all the time and there are oysters out there, and they won’t allow us to work them,” stated Harry Harris.

Much harvesting is done by small boats. Oyster catchers claim that the water in Mobile Bay is too salty for the vessels that remain open.

” Many small vessels cannot reach that limit. They can’t even get there,” stated Michael Williams. It’s too rough. “

Bannon stated that a new grid system was implemented by the state to prevent small areas from being overworked.

The Alabama department opened the reefs on Oct. It reported late that month that the number of harvesters seeking oysters had risen from last year and that 1,200 sacks of oysters per day were being pulled out of Mobile Bay, up from 800 a day last year. Oyster harvesters are limited to six sacks per day, each holding 85 pounds (39 kilograms). Bannon stated that those who catch the limit can make $500 per day.

Other Gulf countries have also placed restrictions.

Mississippi allowed no harvest at all in 2021-2022 and has not announced an opening date for this year. The state’s oyster stocks, already in decline, were destroyed by floodwaters from the Mississippi River. Heavy rains also poured large amounts of freshwater into 2021,, causing oysters to struggle for water.

The spillway release also led Louisiana to close public oyster harvests east of the Mississippi River from 2019 through 2022. These areas were reopened by Louisiana in October.

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