Beginning Feb. 1, Louisiana oyster harvesters will have a two-week opportunity to move oysters from the public oyster seed grounds located in Lake Borgne and Mississippi Sound between the Rigolets and Half Moon (Grand) Island, and transplant them to private leases for later harvest.  A boost to the local oyster industry, the transplant allows Louisiana oystermen to harvest oysters that would not have otherwise been available to them during the season.

This oyster transplant program is for the purpose of moving live oysters from restricted areas of the public oyster seed grounds to private leases.  A joint initiative by the Louisiana Department of Health and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the program provides additional harvest opportunities for the Louisiana oyster industry.  

The transplants are allowed on a permit-only basis. Permit applications will be accepted beginning Feb. 1 – 15, 2009.  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 during daylight hours between Mar. 1–Mar. 14, 2009 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 used for direct market harvesting during this time period.  Shellfish taken for transplanting purposes 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.   The transplant areas are pre-approved by LDH, and a map identifying the lease where the transplanting oysters will be bedded must accompany each permit application.

The Secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has the authority to close the oyster season in this area if excessive amounts of non-living reef material are found in the oyster loads that are being transplanted.

Applications for transplant permits may be obtained between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, from David Guilbeau, LDH Commercial Seafood Program, 628 N. 4th St., Baton Rouge, La., 70821.  For more information, call (225) 342-7641.