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Scooping Sustainable Seafood at Half-Shell High School

ABOVE Federal money is assisting an effort by the Mobile County Public School System to educate students on oyster farming.
 

Mobile County’s Board of School Commissioners is moving ahead on a $260,440 cooperative agreement with the federal EPA’s Gulf of Mexico Program to develop “Half-Shell High School,” a sustainable seafood community workforce using off-bottom oyster farming. 

“Half-Shell High School will provide formal training and hands-on experience in off-bottom farming methods in an effort to provide a sustainable alternative to traditional oyster harvesting,” says Julian Stewart, Mobile County aquaculture teacher. 

Participants will see all aspects of oyster aquaculture, from spawning and setting to grow-out and harvest. Officials say the project will also use off-bottom growing methods to produce oysters that will be used in restoration efforts in the area. 

Once the program takes hold, says Stewart, the hope is that students use what they’ve learned to start their own off-bottom oyster farms. Seafood restaurants from both the east and west coasts and major cities in between have sought oyster sourcing alternatives since the BP oil spill in 2010 illustrated the fragility of the supply chain.

Off-bottom oysters are marketed as a premium version of naturally occurring shellfish and get careful monitoring by farmers to guard against an unholy host of natural and manmade threats. They’re often grown from a hybrid seed stock to prevent them from spawning, a process that depletes highly desired bivalve plumpness.

EPA hopes the cooperative agreement will further the strategic goals and objectives of the Gulf of Mexico Program and lead to a healthy and prosperous ecosystem. 

For more information about the Gulf of Mexico Program, visit www.epa.gov/gulfofmexico.

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