Supporting shellfish aquaculture in Louisiana
By Roy Kron, Louisiana Sea Grant
Officials with Louisiana Sea Grant (LSG) and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) recently celebrated the opening of the newly constructed Michael C. Voisin Oyster Hatchery on Grand Isle.
Construction on the oyster hatchery began in April 2013. The elevated and temperature controlled hatchery features a state-of the-art re-circulating water system that will enable production of hatchery-raised larvae and spat to occur year- round, significantly increasing the production capacity over previous years. The facility was funded through the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment early restoration process.
“Oysters are important to the history and culture of our state,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. “This oyster hatchery is a very important tool in rehabilitating the state’s valuable oyster resources in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”
Since 1993, LSG has operated an oyster hatchery on Grand Isle in various locations. In 2005, the hatchery was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and LSG moved its operations to the LDWF Grand Isle marine research lab, which allows LDWF and LSG to merge academic research projects and hatchery programs that benefit both the commercial harvesting sector and aid in management of the public seed grounds. br>
“Louisiana Sea Grant has a long history of supporting our state’s oyster industry, and an equally long history of working in partnership with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries,” said Robert Twilley, LSG executive director. “With this partnership, we look forward to entering into a new commitment of research and service that benefits our state’s oyster growers and harvesters.”
LDWF is responsible for operating and maintaining the new oyster hatchery facility. Through an agreement with the department, LSG will provide technical direction on production of larvae and spat and training for LDWF staff under supervision of Louisiana Sea Grant and LSU AgCenter bivalve specialist John Supan.
Currently, LDWF deploys hatchery raised oyster larvae (Crassostrea virginica) on the public seed grounds through remote setting spat on-shell and by deploying free swimming larvae. Approximately 13 million spat and 400 million larvae were produced each year, on average, with past operations for use by LDWF in public seed ground rehabilitation projects.
The new hatchery is capable of producing 1 billion Crassostrea virginica oyster larvae annually. Those larvae will be utilized by LDWF for augmentation of six early restoration cultch plants. Any excess diploid larvae will be used for various oyster rehabilitation projects on the public seed grounds.
Through legislation, Rep. Gordon E. Dove of Houma named the hatchery after the late Michael C. Voisin of Houma. Voisin, who passed away in 2013, was a respected leader in the oyster industry and served in many leadership roles including, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commissioner and chairman of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force.