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Commercial Oyster

Harvesting, Processing, and Selling

Oysters thrive in Louisiana’s estuaries, the coastal waters where salt and freshwater mix. In Louisiana, oystermen fish public oyster grounds for seed oysters (less than 3 inches) and transplant them to private leases for cultivation and future harvest. They also harvest market-size oysters (3 inches or larger) from public grounds. Most of Louisiana’s total oyster harvest comes from private leases, but many of these oysters began their lives as seed oysters on public grounds. In fact, a boat load of seed oysters cultivated on a lease produces an estimated two to three boat loads of marketable oysters. This successful public-private partnership helps Louisiana continue to lead the nation in oyster production year after year.

The state also benefits from the ecological services oysters provide. Oysters reefs provide habitat for a variety of fish and invertebrates, help stabilize shorelines, and improve water quality through filter feeding.

Mandatory Oyster Harvester Training

Before applying for an Oyster Harvester License, all oyster harvesters must complete online oyster harvester training. Oyster harvesters must take this training every three years.

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Oyster Leases

Oyster harvesters may apply to lease water bottoms from the state for oyster production and harvest through LDWF’s Oyster Lease Section. There are approximately 400,000 acres currently under lease. LDWF is in the process of lifting the long-standing moratorium on issuing new oyster leases; the moratorium is being lifted in phases.  

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Alternative Oyster Culture

If you hold a valid oyster lease on public or private water bottoms in Louisiana, you may apply to LDWF for an Alternative Oyster Culture Permit to grow (and harvest) oysters on your leased area by any of the following methods:

  • On-bottom cages, racks, or bags
  • Off-bottom cages, racks, or bags, suspended by poles or floats
  • String or longline
  • Other approved method as specified in your permit.

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Safe Oyster Harvest, Production, and Consumption

Oysters are filter feeders and can accumulate contaminants and microorganisms present in the water, which can in turn affect people who eat raw or under-processed contaminated oysters. To ensure oysters are safe to eat, the Louisiana Department of Health uses water quality data to determine where oysters can be harvested and strictly regulates handling, processing, and shipping of harvested oysters.

Check LDH’s website or call 800.256.2775 for more information on their closures.

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Importing Oysters to Louisiana

LDWF recognizes an increase in interest to import the eastern oyster into Louisiana to develop genetic diversity and/or polyploidy broodstock to enhance wild native populations and improve cage culture production (on-bottom and off-bottom). Importing any fish species into state waters is prohibited without approval from LDWF.  Those interested in importing oysters into Louisiana must submit an oyster importation application to LDWF for approval. There is no application fee.

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Oyster Harvesting Tag Requirements

Oysters taken from Louisiana state waters for sale must be properly identified.  Harvesters and dealers must identify sacks and other packing containers used to hold in-shell oysters with official oyster harvest tags purchased from LDWF.

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— oyster stock assessment —

LDWF annually assesses the status of the oyster stock located on the 1.68 million acres of public oyster grounds along Louisiana’s coast. This assessment is based on sampling and other information collected throughout the year. Every summer, biologists dive on the state’s public oyster reefs, collecting oysters and recording data about their samples. They use dredges to sample oyster reefs throughout the year. Hydrological and climate data gathered during sampling and side-scan sonar technology used to assess the water bottom help biologists evaluate the size and condition of oyster reefs.

Louisiana Oyster Task Force

The Louisiana Oyster Task Force (representatives from the oyster industry and relevant state agencies) was established to monitor the oyster industry and to make recommendations that maximize benefits from that industry to Louisiana and its citizens. The task force also coordinates efforts to increase oyster production and saleability, studies declines in oyster saleability, and makes recommendations to the state to resolve problems.

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