Public oyster reefs are assessed annually by divers using transects to determine the density of oysters on the reefs. Checkpoints, conducted in conjunction with the enforcement section, monitor oyster harvest from the public reefs. The division also helps the Alabama Department of Public Health, Seafood Branch collect samples to monitor the oysters on the public reefs to insure the public health. This work supports management of the oyster resources. The data collected is used to make recommendations to the director about the condition of the oyster reefs and whether they should be closed for biological reasons or different harvest limits imposed. An annual reef enhancement program is funded from the money received from the sale of oyster tags. This program plants oyster shell, received from local processors, on the public reefs.
Public oyster reefs open for commercial and recreational harvest from October 1 - April 30. Harvest zones open vary throughout the season and press releases are sent out to alert the public to which public beds are open. Harvesting zones are open Monday through Friday from 7a.m. to 2p.m. All culling must be completed by 2p.m. and commercial catchers have 1 hour to check in at the Oyster Management Station (OMS). Recreational catchers are not required to check in or out from the OMS station but must adher to the same rules followed by the commercial catchers regarding harvesting zones and harvesting times. A more complete breakdown of commercial oyster harvesting regulations and the oyster management harvesting zone map can be found on the Fishing Regulations page.
Along with oyster harvesting conducted on the public oyster reefs, Alabama has a booming oyster aquaculture industry. These private farms allow for Alabama to supply oysters year round. To learn more about the current farms and the oyster aquaculture industry visit the Alabama Oyster Aquaculture website.
For more information regarding Oyster Management contact Jason Herrmann. For questions regarding oyster harvesting regulations contact either the Gulf Shores, (251)-968-7576, or Dauphin Island (251)-861-2882 offices.