National Geographic : 1966 Mar
that have set on old shell which they get from seed beds on the other side of the Mississippi. "The normal method in Louisiana involves the removal of seed oysters from natural reefs owned and managed by the state. The seed oysters are planted on privately leased bot toms, where they grow to market size and fatten. Though predators occur in these areas, the annual plantings, rapid growth, and a rotational system of planting result in good production-frequently as much as three to one over the natural-reef output. "And oystering pays pretty well. The shrimp and oyster harvest brings us about 60 million dollars in a normal year. Of course, the oyster crop probably will be 20 to 50 percent less this year, but they grow fast. Production should return to normal by next season. "At least 15,000 people work in the shrimp and oyster fisheries," Dr. St. Amant continued. "They're a rugged bunch, and the fisheries have survived worse than the storm. "A few years ago shrimp production de clined from an unknown cause, but it has come back to almost what it used to be. We 386 expect 60 million pounds a year from now on."* Next day, I went out with Junior Duet on his oyster lugger, and for a test of my aging ar teries I took over a shovel myself. The young oystermen eyed me dubiously as I attacked the seed-oyster heap with an old-fashioned coal stoker's scoop big enough to hold half a bushel at a bite. Within ten minutes I col lapsed over a capstan with eyes bulging and sides heaving like a sunfish out of water. The oystermen swung their shovels steadily on, till five tons of seed were over the side. From that moment, I have eaten my fat Gulf oysters with more respect for the men who keep them coming. Lafitte's Ghost Lingers in the Marsh After my essay at oyster farming, Theard Rigaud, a local skipper, invited me to go on a more relaxed kind of oyster harvest-a search of the Grand Terre marsh for "wild" oysters that had seeded and fattened themselves as *Dr. Clarence P. Idyll wrote of the industry in two GEOGRAPHIC articles: "Shrimp Nursery," in May, 1965, and "Shrimpers Strike Gold in the Gulf," May, 1957.