On September 1, 2016, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission set the 2016/2017 oyster seasons based on the annual oyster stock assessment provided by Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologists and comments received from members of the public, including the oyster industry.
The following opening dates were set for the upcoming oyster season:
· Wednesday, September 7, 2016 – Bay Junop Public Oyster Seed Reservation, Lake Mechant Public Oyster Seed Grounds, and Vermilion/East and West Cote Blanche/Atchafalaya Bay Public Oyster Seed Grounds will open at one-half hour before sunrise. No harvest of oysters for market sales is allowed on any public oyster area prior to the second Monday in October. Therefore, any and all vessels harvesting on the open public oyster seed grounds between September 7, 2016 and October 9, 2016, both dates inclusive, shall be harvesting seed oysters for bedding purposes only and shall not have sacks or other containers typically used to hold oysters on board the harvest vessel.
· Monday, November 14, 2016 – The Bay Long/American Bay sacking-only area and Hackberry Bay will open at one-half hour before sunrise.
· Tuesday, November 15, 2016 – Hackberry Bay (sacking-only)
· Season delayed until further notice – all Public Oyster Seed Grounds East of the Mississippi River and north of a line extending east from the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet at latitude 29 degrees 42 minutes 56.74 seconds N latitude (including Drum Bay sacking-only area). The cause of that delay is described below.
During the 2016/2017 open oyster season, the following provisions shall be in effect:
1. Any vessel from which any person(s) takes or attempts to take oysters from the public oyster seed grounds and reservations described above shall:
a. Be limited to a daily take and possession limit not to exceed 50 sacks of oysters per vessel. A sack of oysters for the purposes of this declaration of emergency shall be defined as the size described in R. S. 56:440. The daily take and possession limit shall not apply to vessels harvesting seed oysters for bedding purposes. The possession limit shall not apply to vessels operating under a valid Oyster Cargo Vessel Permit.
b. Be limited to either harvesting market oysters for direct sale (sacking) or harvesting seed oysters for bedding purposes on any one day and is specifically prohibited from doing both on the same day.
2. If any person on a vessel takes or attempts to take oysters from the public oyster seed grounds or reservations described above, all oysters contained on that vessel shall be deemed to have been taken from said seed ground or reservation from the time harvest begins until all oysters are off-loaded dockside.
3. Prior to leaving public seed grounds or reservations with oysters harvested from said seed ground or reservation: all oysters must be sacked, the number of sacks shall be recorded in a log book, and each sack shall be properly tagged.
4. All vessels located in public seed grounds or reservations during those times between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise shall have all oyster dredges unshackled.
The following areas shall remain closed for the 2016/2017 oyster season:
· The area east of the Mississippi River and south of a line extending east from the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet at latitude 29 degrees 42 minutes 56.74 seconds N latitude, excluding the American Bay area listed above
· The Bay Gardene and Sister Lake Public Oyster Seed Reservations
· The Little Lake, Barataria Bay, Deep Lake, Lake Chien, Lake Felicity, and Lake Tambour Public Oyster Seed Grounds
The opening of the season in the following area is delayed until further notice:
· all Public Oyster Seed Grounds East of the Mississippi River and north of a line extending east from the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet at latitude 29 degrees 42 minutes 56.74 seconds N latitude, including the Drum Bay sacking-only area
This oyster season delay is necessary due to extensive oyster mortality observed throughout the area and also to protect a recent spat set in order to increase the likelihood of spat survival and facilitate resource recovery. Protection of the remaining oyster resource is in the long-term best interest of the public oyster seed grounds in this area. Data indicating the need for this season delay was collected on September 1, 2016.
Seasons were not set for the Sabine Lake or Calcasieu Lake Public Oyster Areas.
Closure dates, adjustments in sack limits and/or sacking-only areas will be determined by LDWF Secretary Melancon on an “as needed” basis, based on biological and harvest data, or if enforcement issues are encountered. The Secretary is also authorized by the Commission to take emergency action to reopen areas previously closed if the threat to the resource has ended, and to open public areas if substantial oyster resources are located.
Public notice of any opening, delay, or closure of a season will be provided at least 72 hours prior to such action, unless such closure is ordered by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals for public health concerns.