The Gulf coast oyster industry has suffered a number of setbacks, both natural and manmade, challenging an industry built around public and private ‘beds’ and reefs. The industry has typically gone through cycles of abundance and scarcity, relying on natural ‘set’ of juvenile oysters. Improved information will allow natural resource managers to make the best science-based decisions for the oyster fishery.
To address the needs of regional resource managers (and members of industry), our lab has implemented two monitoring programs: 1) revision and expansion of Alabama Oyster Sentinel (and adoption of the Apalachicola Bay sampling) and 2) development and implementation of a standardized oyster habitat assessment. For the former, we have sampled, processed, read and reported the Perkinsus marinus (also called Dermo) results from multiple field sites as a measure of health of oyster populations as a tool for resource managers, oystermen and fellow researchers.
For the latter effort, from 2009 through 2012, we established a network of five sentinel sites along the Alabama coast and measured oyster survival and growth rates seasonally. This database provides important baseline data on temporal and spatial variations in oyster performance. Additionally, this database has provided foundation for additional studies. During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the network of sites was expanded to over 12 sites, providing valuable data on oyster performance and potential contamination both during and after the spill in collaboration with colleagues at numerous universities.