Oyster farmers: Report 1-sided

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
20 March 2007, at 12:00am

LOUSIANA - Many oyster leases in Louisiana are speculative with the lease holders earning more for damage caused by oil-and-gas companies than from oyster harvesting.

That conclusion in a draft report commissioned by the state Department of Natural Resources angered the oyster industry while pleasing the oil-and-gas industry.

The report notes that the number of leased acres has increased dramatically since the 1960s while the amount of oysters harvested has remained fairly stable.

More than half of the net income generated from oyster leases in the state comes not from oyster production, but from compensation paid to the lease holders by the oil-and-gas industry, the report says.

The report’s authors conclude that there are many oyster leases paid for on the hope that oil-and-gas companies will need to access the property and have to pay for any damage they cause. This is considered speculative leasing.

Oyster industry representatives say the report is full of inaccuracies and is “appalling” in its one-sided take against the oyster industry.
Oil-and-gas industry representatives say they’re pleased the report brings to light an issue that has been a challenge to its industry for many years.

DNR officials say the report — “Potential Impacts to Coastal Restoration Project Implementation Due to Speculative Value of Oyster Leases in Louisiana” — doesn’t mean a thing.

Commissioned in 2005, its purpose was to examine the estimated value of speculative oyster leases in the state compared with the producing value of oyster leases.

Although the draft report is being circulated for comment, DNR officials say they don’t have any use for the information since the department and oyster industry have worked out a solution to conflicts between coastal restoration work and oyster leases.