The first round of Alternative Oyster Culture (AOC) grant applications will open Dec. 8. 2021, and close Jan. 13, 2022. Applications can be found at www.laseafoodfuture.com/aoc. A public meeting to review eligibility and the scoring process will be held Dec. 16, 2021, at 6 p.m. via Zoom; register by Dec. 15 at http://lsu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_dhghhTIt4pOlgJo.
Grant categories include oyster parks, seed nurseries, grow-out farms, and hatcheries. Applicants are required to meet several eligibility requirements, such as possessing a Louisiana oyster harvester license and commercial fishing license, be a resident of the state, and not have been convicted of a Class 4 or greater oyster-related violation. Grant recipients also will have to develop their businesses according to an established timeline, periodically report on how the grant contract is being fulfilled in a timely fashion and demonstrate that a marketable oyster product is being grown and cultivated.
Once the first round of applications closes on Jan. 13, each applicant will be notified of the timeline for application review, approval, and contract signing. The objective is to have contracts signed no later than early February so AOC fishermen can order equipment and have it available for the spring.
AOC is when oysters are grown in floating cages or in bottom-placed cages attached to pylons. This method allows the cages to be raised and lowered to protect oysters from predators, fouling and the burial effects of disasters like hurricanes The goal of the grant program is to begin expanding AOC operations across the state. That includes establishing AOC seed nurseries and grow-out facilities, hatcheries, and areas legally designated as AOC Management Units (parks) that contain multiple farms in one location.
“AOC isn’t a replacement for the traditional oyster fishery,” said Earl Melancon, a Louisiana Sea Grant (LSG) Scholar and formerly a Nicholls State University professor emeritus with 45 years of experience working with the oyster industry. “It’s a supplement for those fishers who have an interest in developing a new method of bringing a valuable Louisiana product to market.”
Melancon leads the AOC project team along with LSG/LSU AgCenter Extension agent Thomas Hymel. LSG has operated an AOC demonstration farm on Grand Isle for more than a decade and began researching alternative oyster culture in the late 1980s.
Funding for the grant program comes from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA).
Since its establishment in 1968, Louisiana Sea Grant (www.laseagrant.org) has worked to promote stewardship of the state’s coastal resources through a combination of research, education and outreach programs critical to the cultural, economic and environmental health of Louisiana’s coastal zone. Louisiana Sea Grant, based at LSU, is part of the National Sea Grant College Program, a network of 34 university-based programs in each of the U.S. coastal and Great Lakes states and Puerto Rico.