Gulf of Mexico
Tristan Baurick / The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

LA - Louisiana Hasn't Approved an Oyster Lease in 19 Years; That's About to Change

$1 billion court judgment led to moratorium; oyster fishers anticipate lifting of ban

It's been 19 years since Louisiana, stung by a $1 billion court judgment, last opened its water bottoms for new oyster leases. But the state is now lifting its moratorium, raising hopes among oyster harvesters who have endured a series of setbacks from Mother Nature as well as the BP oil disaster.

Some of their never-considered lease applications date back to 1998.

"This is a big deal, a momentous occasion to be getting back into leasing water bottoms again," said Marc Maniscalco, oyster lease program manager for the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

The department changed its leasing rules last year and has now started reviewing 35 applications that have gone unprocessed over the past 22 years. Some of these applicants have been tied up in litigation with the state over the oyster grounds in Jefferson, Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Bernard and Terrebonne parishes.

Corey Dunbar, a Belle Chasse-based lawyer represents some of the applicants, including longtime oyster harvester Terry Alexis, who since 2000 has been seeking leasing rights to more than 450 acres of water bottoms. Dunbar said all of clients are eager to see more leases open up in new grounds and to expand their current leases.

Ultimately, the oyster fishers just want to focus on their livelihood: growing and selling oysters.

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