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November 24, 2020
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Freshwater Intrusion Sparks Interest in Oyster Gardening

For residents living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, eating oysters in months that end in “R” is a tradition, except this past year when the oyster population was nearly destroyed due to the intrusion of fresh water in the Gulf of Mexico. But because oysters are such a huge hit for locals and visitors, many people have learned to garden oysters.

Rayne Palmer, Program Coordinator for the Mississippi Oyster Gardening Program, will present a program on oyster gardening and ways to get involved on Saturday, Feb. 1, at 10:30 a.m. at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center. As coordinator, she recruits new gardeners, supports gardeners and provides program outreach and education. Her goal is to expand the Mississippi Oyster Gardening Program and increase the visibility of the program.

“Come join us as Rayne talks about oyster ecology, oyster anatomy, the life cycle of the oyster, the benefits of oysters, and what has been causing oyster population decline,” said PRAC Educator Katie Walsh Fetzer. “Additionally, we will take a walk to our own boat dock to view the habitat oyster garden used for educational programming.”

Palmer is a 2017 Marine Biology graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and believes that oyster gardening has been made popular due to recent ecological events.

“With the freshwater intrusion from the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway this past summer, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources has estimated that 95% of our oyster population in the sound has died,” Palmer said. “The Mississippi Oyster Gardening Program not only educates on why we need the oysters in the sound, but it also stresses that all oysters grown through the program are planted back on restoration reefs in the Mississippi Sound.”

This program will be family friendly and will capture the attention of anyone who enjoys working along the waterways or in eating oysters.

“We will be learning about the benefits that oysters have on our environment, their lifecycle and anatomy, and other information on what the Mississippi Oyster Gardening program does,” Palmer added.

This educational program is offered FREE for current members of the Pascagoula River Audubon Center and is only $5 for non-members. To reserve your seat to learn more about oyster gardening, call the center at (228) 475-0825 or visit Pascagoula.audubon.org.

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