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Nov 27, 2010 4:59 PM by Andrea Babin

Researchers: Grow Oysters in Suspended Bags

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - LSU and Auburn University researchers
say a new approach to growing oysters - in mesh bags strung between
posts - could boost harvests and create jobs.
The "long-line system" is used to grow oysters commercially in
Australia and now it is being used at the Fisheries Research
Laboratory in Grand Isle.
John Supan, an oyster expert with the Louisiana Sea Grant
College Program, said the technique could allow Louisiana
commercial fishermen to become oyster farmers or help existing
oyster farmers to increase their businesses.
Oysters can be grown in salty water when they are strung from
posts because they are out of reach from predators like oyster
drills and black drum, which lurk on the bottom where oysters grow
naturally.
The oysters in the research project reach market size in around
15 months, compared to two to three years for reef-grown oysters,
Supan said. That's because the research project oysters are sterile
and more of their energy goes into growth than reproduction.
The survival rates for the bag-grown oysters are much higher
than for reef oysters, Supan added. Close to 100 percent of the
seed oysters in the bags survive, compared to roughly a third of
that, at best, for reef-grown oysters.
Bill Walton, an Auburn University aquaculture and fisheries
specialist, said "off-bottom" culture could be an important
addition to the traditional oyster industry.
"It's clean, green and energy-efficient," Walton said.
Supan wants to work with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries
Department and other state agencies to create zones for aquaculture
parks or marine enterprise zones, areas of water designated for
this specific use.
"It's like applying industrial park concepts to the water,"
Supan said.
In designating the marine enterprise zones, state agencies would
take into account coastal restoration plans, the locations of
pipelines and wells, wildlife refuges, and areas affected by
pollution, Supan said.
Coastal communities would then hold town hall meetings to decide
if they want to put in the aquaculture parks, Supan said.
"So you know, the shrimpers could come in and say, 'Well, let's
not put it there. That's where I push for shrimp,"' Supan said.
"The ideal entity to start up an aquaculture park is a port
commission, in my opinion," Supan said. "That's because port
commissions are responsible for private navigational aids in their
region. They're responsible for economic development, and they're
made up of local people that the governor appoints."

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