Under an oyster relocation program, Louisiana oyster harvesters can now be permitted to move oysters from the public oyster seed grounds located southwest of Point Au Fer, Atchafalaya Bay and transplant them to their private leases for later harvest. This program is part of an initiative by both the Louisiana Department of Health and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

The two state agencies allow such transplants on a permit-only basis. Permit applications will be accepted beginning today through Dec. 22, 2004 at 6867 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The transplant permit fee is $100 and a performance bond of $5,000 must accompany the transplant application. Oyster fishermen who are granted permits will be allowed to transplant between January 1, 2005 and January 14, 2005 only, and each transplant vessel must be under the direct supervision of a commissioned officer. All costs associated with the commissioned officer are the responsibility of the person securing the permit. Incomplete applications will be rejected.

The oysters that are transplanted must remain in approved waters for a minimum of 15 days; no part of any lease on which shellfish have been transplanted may be utilized for direct market harvesting during this period. Shellfish taken for transplanting purposes from Point Au Fer shall not be laid down within 500 feet of any adjoining lease where shellfish may be taken for sale as food during the active period of the transplant.

Oyster fishermen who receive permits will be allowed to transplant oysters taken from the public oyster seed grounds southwest of Point Au Fer to only two leases in an approved bedding area, each pre-approved by the Department of Health and Hospitals. A map identifying the lease where the oysters to be transplanted will be bedded must accompany each permit application.

Applications for transplant permits may be obtained between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, from David Guilbeau, Department of Health and Hospitals, Commercial Seafood Program, 6867 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 70810. Phone:  225-763-5467.