About 110 boats hit Mississippi waters Monday for the 2012 Oyster Season. Coast fishermen haven't had a full oyster season since the BP oil spill more than two years ago.
Oystermen pulled up to the docks at the Pass Christian Harbor with big smiles on their faces. Day one of the harvest went surprisingly well.
"Everybody was saying they were going to be small, there were not none out there, but they are plentiful," said Oysterman Tim Yarborough.
Oysterman Gereis Seals agreed. "Prettiest oysters I've seen in a long time," he said.
"A lot of big ones out there. It looks like it's going to be pretty good," Fisherman Mike Tillman said.
It's welcome news to oysterman who have not been able to dredge or tong for the Gulf Coast delicacy since a series of disasters, starting with the BP oil spill.
"Also while we had the Bonnet Carré Spillway disaster, we were also undergoing an extraordinary drought condition at the same time. So it's just been one thing after another," said DMR Shellfish Director Scott Gordon.
The fishermen say the Department of Marine Resources' decision to close the oyster reefs following the oil spill has turned out to be a wise one.
"I believe because they let them sit there long enough and let them grow, there are plenty of them out there. Plenty," said Yarborough.
Seafood dealers say it all adds up to an economic boost for the entire community.
"For our local community, it boosts everything in this town with all the oystermen working. The stores, the community, the gas stations, everyone profits whenever we have something going on in our harbor. It's a wonderful sight to see it because we haven't had it in a while," explained Darlene Kimball, Owner of Kimball's Seafood.
And after the nightmare oystermen have lived through over the past few years, it's the break they say they needed.
"It will last a little while. It's better than what it was," remarked one fisherman.
Currently the season is supposed to run until December 29, 2012. But DMR leaders say they will be evaluating the season as it goes along. It could be closed sooner than that or extended into the new year.
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