Baton Rouge --- For a two-week period beginning March 1, 2007, Louisiana oyster harvesters can be permitted to move live oysters from the public oyster seed grounds located southwest of Point Au Fer and the South Point area.

 This oyster transplanting program is for the purpose of moving live oyster resource from restricted areas of the public oyster seed grounds to private oyster leases. It is part of an initiative by both the Louisiana Department of Health and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Sometimes during the transplant process, non-living reef material is also removed. The Secretary of the Louisiana 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 seed oyster loads that are being transplanted.

 The two state agencies allow such transplants on a permit-only basis. Permit applications will be accepted at DHH, 628 N. 4th Street, Baton Rouge, La., Feb. 1-15, 2007.

 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 March 1 and 14, 2007, unless the oyster season in this area of the public oyster seed grounds is closed by LDWF for management purposes.  Each transplant vessel must be under the direct supervision of a commissioned law enforcement officer. All costs associated with the commissioned officer are the responsibility of the person securing the permit. Incomplete applications will be rejected.

 The transplanted oysters 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 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.

 Oyster fishermen who receive permits will be allowed to transplant oysters to only two leases in an approved bedding area, each pre-approved by DHH. A map identifying the lease where transplanted oysters will be bedded must accompany each permit application.

 Applications for transplant permits may be obtained between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, from David Guilbeau, LDH Commercial Seafood Program, Bienville Bldg., First Floor Room 156, 628 N. 4th Street ,Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 70821.  Phone: 225-342-7641.