Oyster Season Opens; Experts Expect Good Harvests

HOUMA, La. (AP) - As oyster season opened in many public waters, seafood experts forecast a good year for eastern areas that have had limited success since Hurricane Katrina.

Mike Voisin, Louisiana Oyster Task Force president and owner of Motivatit Seafood in Houma, says he's excited about the season, which opened on Thursday. He says the yield is expected to be as good as or better than harvests before the storm.

More than one-third of all oysters consumed in the United States are from Louisiana waters, and the harvest is a $250 million-a-year business.

However, public oyster beds in eastern Louisiana, which are mostly in open water, were hit hard by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, both of which hit in 2005. Millions in fisheries-relief money helped clean hurricane debris from public and private beds, level out the bottoms and seed the oysters.

Public oyster grounds received about $25 million in relief, and oyster farmers received up to $60 million in relief to repair their beds. Voisin says the four reproductive cycles immediately after the storm were excellent, and the first two or three were unusually fruitful.

Bays across the rest of the state, including Black Bay, American Bay, and California Bay in the east, should remain open until April.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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