The second round of Alternative Oyster Culture (AOC) grant applications will open May 6, 2022; the closing deadline for grow-out and nurseries is June 9 and for parks and hatcheries July 7. Applications can be found at www.laseafoodfuture.com/aoc, as well as a press release announcing the applicants selected in the first round and total dollars awarded. Over the life of the three-year program, $1.8 million in grants will be available to AOC operators to purchase equipment and supplies to enhance existing businesses or establish new AOC businesses.
Once the application window closes, each applicant will be notified of the timeline for application review. Applicants are required to meet several eligibility requirements and are assessed by an impartial selection committee. Grant recipients must then 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 an oyster product is being grown and cultivated.
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.
“This program is a competitive process, and we had many applications in the first round who were worthy candidates but missed out on the first round of funding by a hair,” said Earl Melancon, a Louisiana Sea Grant (LSG) Scholar who leads this program. “Those applicants are already in the pool for this second round of funding, and we welcome newcomers who may not have applied yet. It’s an exciting time to work with our grantees in getting their AOC businesses on step.”
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, which is administered by Louisiana Sea Grant and awarded by the Iberia Development Foundation (IDF), 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.