Congratulations to all the local students that participated in the NASP Regional Archery Tournament on February 16th and 17th. The tournament was hosted by Alma Bryant HS in Irvington, Alabama. Alma Bryant High School placed 1st in the high school division; Grand Bay Middle School placed 1st for the middle division; and Dixon Elementary School placed 1st in the elementary division. First place tournament highest scores were recorded by: Aaron Bentley (ABHS); Dustin Hilburn (GBMS); and Ian Crosswhite (Dixon ES). Individual reports for each school and archer are available at: http://www.nasptournaments.org __ABHS archery instructor, Roy Richardson, served as the 2017 Regional Tournament coordinator. Coach Richardson has worked diligently to bring this type of competition to Southwest Alabama and he is to be commended for his dedication to the students, parents and community that he has served throughout his career.
Alba Middle School and Grand Bay Middle School parents and guardians of 8th Grade students transitioning to high school for the 2017-2018 term, are invited to attend an informational meeting at Alma Bryant High School on March 21st at 6 pm; the meeting will be held in the auditorium. For more information, please email ABHS Guidance Counselor, Gina McDaniel, at firstname.lastname@example.org or you may call her at 251-824-3213- ext. 13606.
A recent visit to Bayou La Batre by Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerburg, has brought a great deal of media attention to the seafood industry in the last few days. Most especially, the development of oyster farms located along the coastline near Bayou La Batre. One such endeavor is sponsored by Alma Bryant High School instructor, Julian Stewart. During a recent conversation with Mr. Stewart, he provided insight into the process for developing these types of mariculture ventures. According to Stewart, the Auburn University Shellfish Lab (AUSL), located on the east end of Dauphin Island, has promoted oyster restoration and off-bottom oyster farming (OBOF) since the opening of their hatchery. AUSL personnel have been working with Alma Bryant High School (ABHS) to develop an oyster mariculture program for their students. AUSL and ABHS are currently working together to create an environmentally and economically sustainable high school service learning oyster farm at Point aux Pins in Sandy Bay. Students are learning every aspect of producing oysters for both restoration and the half-shell market; from spawning, to setting, grow-out, transplanting, harvesting, processing and marketing. These new tools and increased knowledge are being applied locally and will serve as a model regionally throughout the Gulf of Mexico, serving to improve the coastal environment and increase community resilience. ABHS has been awarded several grants to fund the early stages of this long-term project.
ABHS students and teachers got their start in oyster restoration by assisting in the Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program for the past 10 years. Two years ago, they completed a 2-year oyster restoration project that was funded by a $26,000 grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation 5-Star Program. In the first year of the project they grew (from spat) and transplanted over 100,000 sub-adult oysters in a restoration site established by Auburn University. The second year, they grew approximately 200,000 restoration oysters in an off-bottom adjustable long-line system and transplanted them to their new site in Sandy Bay at Point aux Pins. Two years ago, ABHS was awarded a $50,000 grant from the National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA) to carry out an oyster restoration project that included the development and operation of an oyster nursery site as well as a 114-acre oyster growing site. The funds paid for all of the surveys, permits, and some of the mariculture equipment and gear. In Dec. 2015, they were notified that they were awarded a $260,000 grant from the EPA Gulf of Mexico Regional Partnership for the development of a sustainable seafood community workforce using OBOF. High school students and interested community members will receive training in all aspects of oyster aquaculture and restoration methods as well as have the opportunity to operate their own commercial growing lease. ABHS was recently awarded a $37,872 grant from the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission to construct and operate a mobile oyster spawning system and larval rearing system.
Stewart noted that if everything goes as planned, ABHS will set up their portable spawning system this spring at Point aux Pins and begin spawning oysters. They will nurse the resulting larvae for 2 weeks until the larvae are ready to settle down and attach themselves. The larvae will be set on ground up oyster shells which will ultimately produce single half-shell oysters. The larvae will then be transferred to the school’s on-shore nursery system (called an upweller) where they will grow to about the size of your fingernail. Here the oysters receive a continuous high flow of fresh bay water that contains the plankton they feed on the whole time they are in the upweller. After out-growing the upweller, the rapidly growing oysters will be transferred to the OBOF growing gear in Sandy Bay. Over the next 6 to 9 months, the oysters should reach a marketable size of 3 inches. These oysters will be sold to up-scale oyster bars and restaurants as half-shell oysters, live and still in their shells. Stewart pointed out that this way of growing oysters in no way competes with conventional oyster harvesting as tonged oysters go to shucking houses which is a totally different market. With a lot of hard work and a little luck, you will soon see “Bonus Point” oysters (the ABHS brand) on menus throughout the southeast.