DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. (WKRG) — Many oyster harvesters gathered in Dauphin Island to meet with Scott Bannon, the director of the Alabama Marine Resource Division, after AMRD announced they are closing two areas in the bay.
The AMRD closed a portion of waters on the east side of the Mobile bay Tuesday afternoon due to over harvesting, which is where a resource gets collected so much that it is unsustainable.
Many harvesters were upset by their decision because harvesting oysters are their main source of income.
In a map shown below, the Alabama Marine Resource Division has had the west side of Mobile Bay closed since Nov. 23. They closed the two grids Tuesday afternoon. Everything in blue is open.
Harvesters such as Michael Williams said the main issue with closing the water is that the other side has tougher water which makes it harder for harvesters to retrieve oysters.
“A lot of small vessels can’t get that limit; they can’t even get out there,” said Williams. “It’s too rough yesterday [when] we [were] out we took a wave, and we both decided to boat and almost took us out me and my wife on the east side in the bay.”
Many fishermen demanded answers from the Director of the Alabama Marine Resource Division asking why these areas in the bay were closing.
Some said it is unfair and believe this time of year is the best time to harvest oysters.
“They shut us down all the time and there’s oysters out there and they won’t let us work them and then they said they go back, but we go by season,” said Harry Harris, a harvester. “Then you got to go to the other side of the bay where it’s rough in the round time and you can’t go where you want to.”
Bannon said he’s aware why the fisherman are upset, but he believes the grid system is supposed to help with the overharvesting issue, hoping harvesters will spread out more in the bay.
“And whereas we look at it, as we’ve developed a management plan to sustain the oyster reef,” said Bannon. “And to grow the oyster reef, and again, our goal is, as I mentioned, that layer is to continue to have enough oysters for their grandchildren and beyond. So, we’ve been in a rebuilding process.”
Bannon explains that previously they would have to close larger water areas, so this system will help keep harvesters working.
“Unfortunately, there’s just not enough oyster harvest available to do a longer season and to maintain that we would love to do that we’d love to keep Alabama product in the market longer, we would love for them to be working longer and making it’s good money,” said Bannon. “Some of them are making around $500 A day when they’re out there. And we want them to continue to do that. So our goal is use this harvest grid system, which you heard some of them were concerned about. Previously, we could only open and close very large areas, they were they were labeled like Heron Bay, Cedar Point West, and we had some boundary lines, but they were extremely large areas. And they would work very, very hard in a very small area.”
According to Bannon, the west side of the bay should open in the first week of October.