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Oyster season starts Monday with new requirement

Published: Oct. 26, 2012 at 10:42 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2012 at 10:42 PM CDT
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Bayou Dularge, La. - Maria Aguado cleans the boat as her husband makes final repairs. He'll leave Bayou Dularge Monday morning, setting sail in search of oysters.

Harvesting is never easy but the Aguados can't imagine doing anything else.

"It's their own business," says Aguado. "They like it, nobody tells them what to do, when to do it."

Many state waters open for harvesting next week. Beginning this season, any boat licensed to collect oysters on public grounds has to be equipped with a vessel monitoring unit.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries implemented the program to better manage the 1.6 million acres of public oyster beds.

LDWF hopes the tracking system will show exactly where the oysters came from and which areas are most productive.  But some oystermen feel the vessel monitoring program is an invasion of privacy.

More than 700 boats harvest on the public oyster beds and any vessel without the monitor will be cited.

"Like they're watching you, everywhere you go and what are you doing, you know?" says Aguado.

Mike Voisin, CEO of Motivatit Seafood, says the vessel monitoring device is no different than the system already used on many private oyster grounds.

"It's going to take a year or two for them to understand how to make that all work to get the best productivity out of those areas and where in the future, as we do shell plants, as we take the seed and the larvae from the hatchery, where to put it to where we can get the best bang for the buck," he says.

That could lead to more oysters in the coming years.

As for this season, Motivatit's oyster processing plant is already busy and Voisin expects the pace to pick up even more on Monday. One-third of all the oysters consumed around the country come from Louisiana.

"In the spring, they want to go eat crawfish and in the summer, it's shrimp and then crabs," says Voisin. "Today, with the colder weather coming in, they usually get the envie for oysters."