Indoor hatchery to benefit Louisiana's Gulf oyster industry
Don Ames Reporting
Louisiana will soon be producing oysters indoors, with all the taste of the Gulf.
A $3 million hatchery building is under construction on Grand Isle and should be a boon to Louisiana's oyster industry.
There's been a hatchery on Grand Isle for 23 years, but it's always been outdoor seasonal facility, limited to warm water months.
The indoor Sea Grant Oyster Hatchery will be an elevated building, able to heat sea water and maintain temperature for the first time. That'll enable them to extend their growing season...earlier in the Spring and later in the Fall...even controlling the seasons to an extent.
"We can produce an oyster that's fat in the summertime, whereas, normally, they're skinny from spawning," says LSU Research Professor and oyster specialist John Supan. "These oysters can't spawn. They're sexually sterile."
Supan is director of the hatchery. He says the old, outdoor facility also meant having to shut down if a storm was brewing in the Gulf, severely affecting their oyster research and production needs.
And this facility is expected to be quite productive. "The hatchery is designed to produce 200 million oyster larvae a month, as long as the water quality holds up."
That's because they'll use 8,000 gallons of bay water a day. But, they'll have much greater control over that water, including the ability to control its salinity.
"What we're promoting is teaching how to grow oysters in new ways that make them grow faster, and that are fatter meat. You can grow them in saltier areas, and everybody loves salty, half-shell oysters," says Bray.
He says the indoor operation is something new for Louisiana, but there's been off-bottom oyster production on the east and west coasts for decades and it's currently being used to revive the oyster industry in Chesapeake Bay.
He says you can make oysters faster and grow them much faster, off-bottom, than you can in the Gulf.
They've also been able to develop a brood stock that is resistant to a disease that kills oysters.
"So, the hatchery brings more to the table than just producing lots of larvae," Bray says. "It can make genetic improvements to the brood stock."
The building should be completed by the end of January, and the goal is to be spawning those oysters by May.