Guy Harvey Magazine

WIN 2017

Guy Harvey Magazine is focused on fishing, boating, scuba diving, and marine conservation. Portfolios from the world's best fishing photographers, articles on gear, travel, tournaments, apparel, lifestyle, seafood recipes, sustainable fisheries.

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Page 36 of 83 | 37 50 times the surface area of an equal acreage of flat bottom. Where there are more oyster reefs, there's a more robust ecosystem and usually more gamefish. Last, but not least, oyster beds do an excellent job of "wave attenuation"— basically, they're natural breakwaters that prevent waves from roiling the water, eroding shorelines and washing away the marsh grass that also plays an important part in keeping the water clear and nutrient levels healthy. In short, anglers clearly benefit from a strong oyster population. Oysters can spawn in their first year of life but are not fully mature until age three in most locations. They release eggs and sperm in summer, according to biologists with the MDMR. Fertilized eggs drift in the water column, undergoing cell division until they become juvenile larvae. The larvae live in the water column for the next two weeks, maturing and feeding on phytoplankton. They primarily move with the currents. Larvae are not capable of swimming horizontally, but they can move vertically to some extent. Once the larvae are approximately two weeks old, they grow a "foot," which helps them crawl around to find a suitable hard substrate to which they can attach. Once they have attached to a solid object, usually another oyster shell, the larvae undergo a metamorphosis and become what is known as a spat. These miniature oysters will start to feed and put all their energy into shell growth by pulling calcium carbonate from the water column. The oyster becomes an adult at year three when the shell width is typically about three inches—oysters grow up to an inch per year in good habitat. In higher salinity areas, oysters grow faster than in lower salinity areas, but too much salinity allows invasion of oyster drills and other predators that limit their numbers, biologists say. The challenge in Mississippi is one that has been faced in other areas, and the state has gone to real efforts to learn from the experiences of others. Chesapeake Bay, which is estimated to have one percent of its historic numbers of oysters, has had an ongoing effort to restore populations since the early 1990s. Most have met with very limited success, according to state biologists in Maryland and Virginia. Some say this is primarily because the effort has gone to sustaining oyster harvesters rather than oysters. Creating new oyster bars in Photo: Fred Salinas.

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