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 38 of 83 | 39 behind future large-scale oyster restoration projects, hopefully improving the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of oyster beds. The studies include an assessment of cultch-type research into the effects of contaminated oyster shell on recruitment, and baseline water quality and benthic habitat assessments in the Mississippi Sound to identify preferred locations for future restoration. The project also includes a pilot nearshore 'oyster gardening' program to produce oysters for conservation purposes. The overall aim is to produce a million sacks of oysters annually by 2025—more than double the production in 2004 prior to the decline. Some $11.8 million in funding will come from the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, paid out in restitution for the Gulf oil spill and administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Basic aims will include restoring the barrier islands that form the Mississippi Sound, improving storm water drains and stopping point-source septic tank outfall in the watershed, and assuring an adequate—but not excessive— freshwater flow into the estuaries in the future. Controlling the way that oysters are harvested and the frequency with which the beds are worked will also be a major factor. "That's one of our big challenges," says Miller, "because the oystermen have mortgages and boat payments right now, and they need that continuing harvest to make it, but at the same time we have been taking too many oysters from too many areas. They can't restore themselves unless we limit that take enough for them to mature and spread." He said the state will be restoring historic oyster bed areas and building new ones through placement of cultch, and if everything goes well, production can go up dramatically in only a year or two, if oystermen cooperate. "Even if everything else goes well, we are going to have a tough time getting back to historic harvest levels if we don't limit the take carefully for the next few years," says Miller, "and that's a political management issue instead of a biological issue." Mississippi's restoration plans have benefited from lessons learned in other regions. In Tampa, this artificially constructed shell bar, now overgrown with live oysters, protects the marsh grass behind it as well as providing habitat for small marine life. Photo: Tampa Bay Watch.

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