Oyster Shortage Causes Closed Harvest Areas

GRETNA, LA (AP) — A depleted oyster population in Louisiana waters has led the state's Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to declare several oyster harvesting areas off-limits.

         Oyster season opened Wednesday in parts of Louisiana, reported WDSU-TV’s Casey Ferrand. However, a low oyster population is causing problems for oyster farmers.

         Harvesting areas south of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet are closed, including Little Lakes in Barataria Bay.

         Areas east of the Mississippi River, Bay Junop, Lake Mechant, the Vermilion Bay area and the Atchafalaya Bay area opened Wednesday

         Factors contributing to the low resources include too much fresh water in the areas in which the oysters grow and the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

         Oyster farmer Matthew Lepetich says he believes the oyster stock never recovered after Hurricane Katrina.

         "It's getting worse and worse, and I don't know where it goes from here," said Lepetich. "I remember this time of the year, right after Labor Day, we were getting the boats ready and we were going to work."

         But this year, Lepetich isn't the water, because "There's no seed. There's no oyster."

         The effects of the oyster shortage are visible in restaurants. Before the 2010 oil spill, a sack of 100 oysters cost nearly $20, said Tom Hilyup, owner of the Sun Ray Grill in Gretna. Now, the same sack costs $39.

         Lepetich said he's going to "stick this out no matter what. But a lot of the smaller people are probably going to have to fold."

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