Oyster Regulations

Methods of Take

  • The oyster season in Mississippi typically occurs between October and April.
  • Oysters can be harvested using two methods: dredging and tonging.
  • A valid recreational or commercial oyster harvesting license is required for all oyster harvesting methods within Mississippi waters.

Dredging Specifications:

  • A dredge may not exceed a weight of 115 pounds.
  • Dredge teeth must be 5 inches or less in length with a maximum of 16 teeth per dredge.
  • A smaller version known as a 'hand' dredge has specific size requirements:
    • Weighs not more than 40 pounds.
    • Has 10 or less teeth with a single tooth not exceeding 5.25 inches in length.
  • Hand dredges are restricted to harvest areas designated for dredging and are prohibited in tonging areas.

Definitions To Know

  • Approved Area: Allows harvest for direct marketing.
  • Conditionally Approved Area: Meets approved criteria under certain conditions.
  • Restricted Area: Harvesting requires a special license and treatment process.
  • Prohibited Area: Harvesting not permitted except for seed gathering for aquaculture.

Oyster Reefs

  • Oysters can only be harvested from waters approved by the MDMR.
  • Harvesting, shucking, processing, and sale of oysters must comply with state statutes and MDMR regulations.
  • Natural reefs include:
    • Telegraph Reef
    • Pass Marianne Reef
    • St. Joe Reef
    • Waveland Reef
    • St. Stanislaus Reef
    • Square Handkerchief Reef
    • Henderson Point Reef
    • Bay St. Louis Reef
    • Biloxi Bay
    • Pass Christian Dredging Reef
    • Pass Christian Tonging Reef

Special Provisions

  • Oysters from Mississippi waters must be tagged at designated check-in/check-out stations.
  • Tags include harvester's details, harvest date, area, and shell-stock dealer's information if sold.
  • Shell retention fees must be paid to the MDMR on the day of harvest to support oyster production.
  • Private lease oysters must bear tags with official lease numbers.
  • Oysters for personal consumption require inspection and tagging.
  • Vessels must have a marine sanitation device for sewage disposal.
  • Oysters for interstate commerce must come from certified Mississippi dealers.
  • Oysters harvested outside Mississippi require a transport permit and compliance with permit provisions.
  • From May 1 to Sept. 30, harvest vessels must have an awning for sun protection over shellstock.

Seasons

The commercial oyster season is regulated by the MDMR.

During open season, oysters may be taken only from legal sunrise until 4 p.m. These times are subject to change as deemed necessary by the MDMR.

Legal Size Limits

Oysters taken from public reefs in Mississippi waters must be at least 3 inches from hinge to bill. At times, however, the MDMR may adjust this limit upon public notice to that effect.

Legal Catch Limits

Recreational catch limits, set by Statute 49-15-46 (4), and commercial catch limits, set by Statute 49-15-38, are set annually.

Oyster Aquaculture

Remote Setting Facility

  • Remote setting involves placing oyster larvae in a protected system to enhance survival rates.
  • The MDMR is in Phase I of the Remote Oyster Setting Facility Project funded by the RESTORE Council.
  • This project aims to set up to 2.5 billion oysters annually to restore Mississippi's depleted oyster reefs efficiently.
  • Benefits include reef restoration, support for the oyster industry, and ecosystem enhancement for other fisheries.
  • Phase I focuses on planning to assess feasibility, determine infrastructure layout, operational costs, setting efficiencies, and production milestones.

Off-Bottom Oyster Aquaculture Training Program

  • Launched in 2018, the Off-Bottom Oyster Aquaculture program offers education in oyster aquaculture production and techniques.
  • It includes classroom and field training, aiding participants in developing operational and business plans.
  • The Deer Island Aquaculture Park now offers 450 acres for potential aquaculture, an increase from the initial 55 acres.
  • Currently, 55 acres are leased by farmers, cultivating over 3 million oyster seeds.
  • To participate, contact the MDMR’s Shellfish Bureau at 228-374-5000.

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