Construction on the oyster hatchery began in April 2013. The elevated and temperature-controlled hatchery features a state-of-the-art re-circulating water system that will enable production of hatchery-raised larvae and spat to occur year-round, significantly increasing the production capacity over previous years. The facility was funded through the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment early restoration process.
“Oysters are very important to the history and culture of our state,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. “This oyster hatchery is a very important tool in rehabilitating the state’s valuable oyster resources in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”
Since 1993, LSG has operated an oyster hatchery on Grand Isle in various locations. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the hatchery. It was rebuilt, but then razed again in 2008 by Hurricane Gustav. LSG subsequently moved its operations to the LDWF Grand Isle marine research lab, which has allowed LDWF and LSG to merge academic research projects and hatchery programs that benefit both the commercial harvesting sector and aid in management of the public seed grounds.
“LSU is proud of the role our scientists play in Louisiana’s world-famous oyster industry, which supplies more than a third of our country’s oysters,” said Louisiana State University President F. King Alexander. “This hatchery will provide critical support to a resource that is integral to our state’s culture and identity.”
“Louisiana Sea Grant has a long history of supporting our state’s oyster industry, and an equally long history of working in partnership with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries,” said Robert Twilley, LSG executive director. “With this partnership, we look forward to entering into a new commitment of research and service that benefits our state’s oyster growers and harvesters.”
LDWF is responsible for operating and maintaining the new oyster hatchery facility. Through an agreement with the department, LSG will provide technical direction on production of larvae and spat and training for LDWF staff under supervision of Louisiana Sea Grant and LSU AgCenter bivalve specialist John Supan. Most of Supan’s recent research has focused on developing a broodstock for producing triploid oysters, which have higher summertime meat yields. He has also examined alternative oyster growing systems, including off-bottom cultivation techniques.
Currently, LDWF deploys hatchery-raised oyster larvae (Crassostrea virginica) on the public seed grounds through remote setting spat on-shell and by deploying free swimming larvae. Approximately 13 million spat and 400 million larvae were produced each year, on average, with past operations for use by LDWF in public seed ground rehabilitation projects.
The new hatchery is capable of producing 1 billion Crassostrea virginica oyster larvae annually. Those larvae will be utilized by LDWF for augmentation of six early restoration cultch plants. Any excess diploid larvae will be used for various oyster rehabilitation projects on the public seed grounds.
Rep. Gordon E. Dove of Houma, through legislation, named the hatchery after the late Michael C. Voisin of Houma. Voisin, who passed away in 2013, was a respected innovator in the oyster industry and served in many leadership roles, including Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commissioner and Chairman of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force.
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 Louisiana State University, is part of the National Sea Grant College Program, a network of 33 university-based programs in each of the U.S. coastal and Great Lakes states and Puerto Rico.