RESTORE Act Funding Will Support Oyster Restoration, Aquaculture on Gulf Coast

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U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and Representative Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., today celebrated the award of $7,624,559 to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to support construction of an oyster hatchery and research center operated by the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Lab (GCRL) at the Cedar Point campus in Ocean Springs.

The funds are being made available as part of the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act), which provides funding for Gulf Coast states affected by the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill.

“The scientists at USM’s Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center have been hard at work restoring the natural bounty of Mississippi’s oyster beds,” Wicker said. “This long-awaited release of RESTORE Act funds will support the oyster hatchery and aquaculture center, which is critical to ensuring the return of a healthy and sustainable oyster population and the expansion of the aquaculture industry along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”

“A healthy ecosystem for cultivating oyster reefs would mean benefits all around, not just for the environment but for the Gulf Coast economy,” Hyde-Smith said. “The GCRL is a wonderful institution that has the expertise to help Mississippi achieve this goal. I’m pleased the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality is a partner in this project.”

“As a lifelong resident of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I understand the positive impact fisheries have on our local economy and our way of life. With this funding, the University of Southern Mississippi can expand their aquaculture program and create more research opportunities,” Palazzo said.

The hatchery facility will enable researchers to produce oysters to restore Mississippi’s historic oyster reefs in the Mississippi Sound, which were damaged by Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill, and freshwater inundation from repeated openings of the Bonnet Carré Spillway.

The facility will also provide aquaculture farmers with a reliable source of juvenile oysters to raise for local seafood restaurants and markets.

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Release from Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith and Congressman Steven Palazzo.