BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Those who love to dine on Alabama’s succulent oysters are in luck. The state’s oyster season opened on Oct. 3, and the oyster catchers are busy plucking those delicious bivalves from the reefs in coastal waters.
Scott Bannon, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (ADCNR) Director of the Marine Resources Division (MRD), said both the number of catchers and sacks of oysters harvested per day are up from last season. “To my knowledge, we had a record number of catchers for an opening day at 243,” Bannon said. “The harvest is going well. We averaged about 800 sacks a day last year, and we’re averaging about 1,200 sacks a day this year.”
“I anticipate a season very similar to last year’s. The oyster catchers are providing very positive feedback about what they’re seeing and how they feel about the condition of the reefs. Those are good signs, but we’re still in a rebuilding phase. We don’t want to overharvest, but we want to maximize the opportunities.”
Alabama also allows recreational harvest of oysters with a 100-oyster daily limit per catcher. Recreational catchers must check in at the oyster management stations at Delta Port or the Cutoff Ramp across from Jemison’s Bait Shop on Dauphin Island Parkway at Coden.
Bannon said adult oysters can filter as much as 50 gallons of water per day, which means an abundant wild oyster population in Alabama is critical for water quality and provides crucial habitat for a variety of fish species and marine animals. Alabama oysters are also in high demand at restaurants and seafood outlets across the nation.
“Oyster taste is environmentally driven,” Bannon said. “Conditions are right in Alabama with the influx of freshwater that goes through Mobile Bay to mix with the salinity of the Gulf of Mexico. That makes for a generally tasty oyster. That’s why there’s such a demand for Alabama oysters, and we want to keep that product in the market as long as we can.”
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