several seasons of marked decline in oyster harvesting from
Calcasieu Lake, a concerted effort has been undertaken to
increase productivity and utilization of the oyster resource.
Oyster harvesting from the area has fallen from 200,000
sacks in the early ‘80s to less than 20,000 sacks
in the early years of this decade.
one would suspect a problem with the stock or other resource
issues. However in this case, the problem is a marketing
and availability issue. Over the years, frequent health
closures made it difficult for dealers to hold onto markets.
Intermittent supply caused wholesale customers to seek more
reliable sources. All the while, oyster stock assessments
showed the resource to be quite robust.
In an effort to boost the local economy and stabilize the
local oyster industry, a local committee was formed to try
and work through some of the problems. The Calcasieu Oyster
Task Force was formed of local fishermen, buyers and businessmen.
Also working with the task force was the Louisiana Department
of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), Louisiana Sea Grant and
Cameron Parish Economic Development personnel.
are beginning to come about. One of the most beneficial
efforts was a meeting which was held in Cameron among local
fishermen and Louisiana Oyster Task Force members, statewide
buyers, fishermen, Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals
(LDHH), LDWF and Sea Grant. The issue of taking advantage
of the resource was discussed, and later a bill was passed
in the Legislature raising the daily sack limit to 15 per
day and allowing dredges to be used in Calcasieu for the
initiative prompted by the Louisiana Oyster Task Force was
to request LDHH to re-evaluate the sampling within the Calcasieu
system to learn if additional area could be opened for harvest.
This work was completed and additional acreage in the eastern
side of the Lower Calcasieu Lake Conditional Management
area was opened on Dec. 26, 2005.
Just as things were moving forward and coming together with
this initiative, Hurricane Rita hit the area on Sept. 24,
2005, causing widespread destruction. However, the oyster
harvest areas survived with minimal damage. The real damage
was to the infrastructure: boats, docks, loading facilities,
etc. According to LDWF license sales records, 96 oyster
dredge licenses were sold in the region, but due to the
widespread destruction only 25 to 30 boats are working the
Due to the relatively low capital investment required for
individuals to get geared up to harvest oysters in the Calcasieu
fishery, there is hope for the future. The main goal of
the initiative is for the the oyster industry of southwest
Louisiana to be profitable and sustainable in the long term.
This will involve expansion of reef area through dredging,
improving quality by breaking up clusters and hooked mussels,
and eventually producing oysters which will be desired by
the half-shell market.