A series of newly published fact sheets for the off-bottom oyster aquaculture industry in the Gulf of Mexico provides guidelines and suggested safety procedures for preparing for tropical storms and hurricanes.
Florida Sea Grant, the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, and Louisiana Sea Grant developed the “Tropical storm and hurricane preparedness for off-bottom oyster aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico” series to help oyster farmers reduce damages related to wind, storm surge and decreased salinity from flooding. There are six publications that focus on planning, preparation and recovery for different types of farms, facilities and equipment:
- Introductory Planning Guide
- Land-based Operations Guide
- Workboats Guide
- Adjustable Long-Line Farms Guide
- Floating Cage Farms Guide
- Floating Bag Farms Guide
The guides help growers create storm plans, prepare to use them and implement them. They offer checklists to help growers take specific steps to increase resilience before, during and after a storm. Best practices in the publications focus on such topics as system installation, farm maintenance, workforce considerations, boat storage, and production facility and processing plant preparation.
“We compiled this information from our experiences and from growers across the Gulf based on their own farm experiences,” Bill Walton, Extension specialist and associate professor with Auburn University and Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, said.
The guides also include timelines that help growers stage tasks based on a storm or hurricane’s track forecast. They include checklists of actions to take when a storm forms in the Gulf, when a tropical storm or hurricane watch is issued, and when a tropical storm or hurricane warning is issued.
“We hope these guides will allow oyster farmers in our region to be better prepared for the next storm,” said Leslie Sturmer, aquaculture extension agent with the University of Florida and Florida Sea Grant.