Oyster Farming Fundamentals

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Professional Training for Commercial Off-Bottom Oyster Farming

Course Description

Auburn University is now enrolling students for Oyster Farming Fundamentals, a non-credit course offered during the summer semester that teaches both potential and current commercial oyster farmers the basics of off-bottom oyster aquaculture. The 15-hour course, led by 

Bill Walton, Extension Specialist with Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Associate Professor in Auburn University’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture & Aquatic Sciences, is intended to provide oyster farmers in Mississippi and Alabama a foundation of knowledge to start and/or improve their oyster farming operation.

Topics in the course will include oyster biology, hatchery basics, nursery options, seed handling, farm site selection, overview of off-bottom culture gear, methods to control fouling, splitting and grading, business planning, risk management, permitting, public health considerations and marketing.

The course will be held at Auburn University’s Shellfish Laboratory on Dauphin Island on Saturday mornings from 9 am to noon, beginning on June 3rd and ending tentatively on August 12th. Classes are tentatively scheduled for June 3rd, June 17th, July 8th, July 22nd and August 12th. Participants will also have the option of receiving at least 10,000 oyster seed to gain hands-on experience with oyster culture, and the opportunity to use one ~100 yard run of oyster farming gear within the Grand Bay Oyster Park through the end of March 2018.

All participants will be required to develop a basic business plan, provide a formal evaluation of the program, document any oyster production in the training program, follow best management practices at the training site, and return any loaned gear in clean, working order to AUSL.

For information about enrolling and eligibility requirements, please contact the following:

  • Alabama – Bill Walton, billwaton@auburn.edu, 251-654-3392
  • Mississippi – Jason Rider, jason.rider@dmr.ms.gov, 228-523-4037
  • Alma Bryant High School students – Julian Stewart, jrstewart@mcpss.com, 251-604-2605

Alabama Oyster Farmer Academy

The Auburn University Shellfish Lab has permitted a new oyster farm park, the Grand Bay Oyster Park (in collaboration with Alma Bryant High School), and is hoping to obtain permits for a second, the Bayou Sullivan Oyster Park. These parks will provide commercial farm locations for individuals that had established farms in the now-closed Portersville Bay Oyster Park, as well as research and training. In addition, there are up to nine two-acre farm plots available to potential commercial farmers within the permitted area.

To be eligible to be assigned one of these two-acre farm plots, individuals must:

  1. Be a full-time resident of Mobile County with the ability to attend training (demonstrated by an Alabama driver’s license);
  2. Be at least 19 years old as of June 1, 2017 (demonstrated by an Alabama driver’s license); 
  3. Sign a statement acknowledging that the costs of starting a commercial oyster farm could exceed $25,000; 
  4. If selected, register for Auburn University’s Oyster Farming Fundamentals professional course, and pay the non-refundable registration fee of $250 by Monday, May 15th;
  5. If selected, participate in and satisfactorily complete the Oyster Farming Fundamentals summer class; and
  6. If selected, agree in writing to the terms and conditions set by the oyster park management, including timely payment of State Land easement fees and any lease fees after completion of the course and prior to plot assignment.

The program will give priority in selection to participants in the commercial seafood industry, demonstrated by holding commercial seafood licenses (harvester, processor, etc.) for at least 3 of the last 5 years; others may apply, but opportunities will be offered first to commercial seafood industry participants (see below). 

Applications (copies of driver’s license and any commercial seafood permits) must be submitted to Bill Walton with requested materials by 5:00 pm on Friday, April 28th, 2017, along with a non-refundable $25 application fee, payable by cash or check to Auburn University Shellfish Lab. A random drawing of applicants, beginning with those that have demonstrated participation in the commercial seafood industry, will be conducted at noon on Monday, May 1st at the Auburn University Shellfish Lab and open to the public; the first nine will be offered positions in the Oyster Farming Fundamentals class, and the rank order will be used for selection of training gear type and farm plots after coursework completion.

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