Tropical Storm Imelda might revive oyster industry

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BATON ROUGE, LA (LOCAL 33)(FOX 44)- Excessive rain expanded the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Basin to record-breaking levels this year. The high water was too much for a lot of the seafood we eat, but it was the most devastating for oysters.

A mollusc can’t survive in a surplus of fresh or saltwater. The cells in their bodies will become overwhelmed and eventually burst, killing them. This year, the swollen bodies of water did just that, but with large amounts of freshwater. Some oyster grounds suffered an 100 percent mortality rate.

Patrick Banks, The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Assistant Secretary and former oyster biologist, says that the number of oysters available for consumption is at an unusual low this year.

“Oysters thrive in a mixture of saltwater and freshwater. When you get an extreme on one side or the other….you get a lot of oyster mortalities.”

But fortunately for oyster lovers, a solution might be rooted in an unlikely source: Tropical Storm Imelda. Sometimes tropical storms can have extremely negative impacts on communities with damaging winds and heavy rainfall, but Imelda’s impact was far less devastating for Louisiana. Especially for Louisiana’s seafood industry.

“The unexpected thing for the public to realize is that a little storm like that can really help with saltwater,” Banks said.

When Imelda hit, she brought salt water with her. It mixed with the surplus of freshwater, creating almost a balance of salinity.

“We actually saw from a salinity level, some helpful things,” Banks said.

The new balance might help repopulate the currently, barren oyster grounds in time for harvest in about two to three years.

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