Native to the entire east coast and Gulf of Mexico, the Eastern oyster has been a major contributor to wild commercial harvests along the eastern U.S. and Gulf coasts. In the early part of the 20th century, the state of Louisiana began leasing state water bottoms to private citizens for the raising and farming of oysters (prior to this time individual parish government leased water bottoms). The state maintains almost 1.7 million acres of public areas and, in addition, there are approximately 400,000 acres of privately owned leases.
Oysters are bivalve mollusks; they have hinged shell just like mussels, clams and scallops. Oysters are mostly sessile, which means they stay in one place and are found in intertidal (between the high and low tide) and shallow sub-tidal (always below the water surface) areas of Louisiana.
Eastern oysters have been known to reach 8 inches long (20cm). The shell is typically greyish in color and oval in shape. The inside of the shell can be bright white to off-white to brownish in color and sometimes has purple markings. The shell also has a ‘cupped’ shape to it, which is why it is also known as the ‘American cupped oyster’.
As a renewable resource, oyster reefs can replenish and sustain themselves when properly managed. In 2012, Louisiana harvested 11.3 million pounds of oysters (out of shell weight) with a dockside value of $40.7 million. Louisiana produced 54% of all Gulf of Mexico oyster landings in 2012, 47 % of all Eastern oyster landings in the United States and 34% of ALL oysters landed in the United States.
For more information and complete list of commercial oyster regulations visit www.wlf.louisiana.gov/regulations