- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - Restoring oyster reefs and building a hatchery are among the key recommendations from the governor’s Oyster Council.

The council, created by Gov. Phil Bryant earlier this year, will give the recommendation to Bryant in June.

“The main goal is to increase the revenue for the oystermen who have dedicated their time to succeed in the oyster arena,” council chairman Dave Dennis said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Oysters have been plentiful in the past and we have a responsibility to make sure they are plentiful in the future.”

The oyster harvest in Mississippi has declined by more than 80 percent in the past decade following a string of man-made and natural disasters. In 2004, fishermen harvested nearly a half million sacks of oysters. Ten years later, that number was just over 78,000 sacks.

According to local media reports, restoring existing reefs is high on the list of recommendations. Longtime oysterman Harold Strong of Bay St. Louis said it should top the list.

“Every one of them needs to be replenished. They need to start with all the natural reefs that are actually going downhill and start rebuilding those natural reefs. Then, start building new reefs once they map it out and find good areas,” said Strong.

Another idea is creating an oyster hatchery to supply larvae. The committee endorses an existing aqua culture facility called Aqua Green.

“It’s already built and could be easily retrofitted in a short period of time to actually be producing larvae,” said Clay Wagner, chairman of the council’s aquaculture committee.

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