Alternate Title

Will Overfishing and Proposed Mississippi River Diversions Imperil Louisiana Oyster Fisheries? Commentary and Review


Two recent articles based on oyster landings have challenged the prevailing wisdom about the most important factors controlling Louisiana oyster production. One article concludes that the northern Gulf industry (principally Louisiana) will collapse based on overfishing; the second concludes that the addition of freshwater through diversions could be harmful to production. These findings are not supported by the literature or our statistical analysis of the landings data. In an effort to put into perspective the complexity of the factors affecting oyster production in the northern Gulf of Mexico, several areas of the oyster literature are reviewed, including (1) hysteresis, (2) the heterogeneous needs of different oyster ages, and (3) the geographic distribution of Gulf oyster populations (some including statistical interpretations). We conclude that Kirby’s (2004) prediction of failure of the Gulf oyster fishery as a result of the danger of current levels of fishing approaching overfishing is exaggerated. We further conclude that Turner’s (2006) data do not support his thesis that diversions are at least unjustified, if not harmful to overall oyster production.