RE: “Sabine Lake likely up for debate,” The Advocate, Aug. 28
As a member of the oyster community whose family has been involved since 1876, I believe many of your readers may not understand the natural life cycle of an oyster reef or what influences Mother Nature and man have on them.
I disagree with Advocate writer Joe Macaluso’s article stating the oyster reefs in Sabine Lake hadn’t been touched for so long the reef is the only structure of its kind in Louisiana, or possibly in North America and the Western Hemisphere.
That assertion makes good headlines, but it is just not accurate. There are many oyster reefs, both public and privately built by oyster farmers in Louisiana, that are equally if not more vertically developed than that in Sabine Lake.
To name a few: Southwest Pass in Vermillion, Camille Reef, Diamond Reef, the Shell Keys, Four League Bay, Shell Island Bay, Tin Can Reef, Telegraph Point, the shallow reefs in southern Black Bay, Lake Borgne near Shell Beach, Point Au Fur, Mussel Pass, Scowl Pass, and the “king” of all vertical reefs in Louisiana, Cabbage Reef.
I understand how the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation, Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and The Nature Conservancy have lined up to oppose opening Sabine Lake for its stated purpose as one of Louisiana’s public oyster grounds, but that doesn’t mean they are right.
The Public Trust Doctrine and the laws of the state of Louisiana clearly denote that the oysters in Sabine Lake are to be harvested and consumed by the people of Louisiana, both commercially and recreationally. It’s wrong that it’s taken these groups more than seven years to object to the opening of Sabine Lake for commercial oyster harvest again.
The Louisiana Oyster Task Force had been working with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Department of Health and Hospitals, and Food and Drug Administration since 2004 to test the water quality and gain enough historic water samples to reopen Sabine Lake for commercial oyster harvest.
Oysters are filter feeders and a big reason why the water quality in Sabine Lake is now good enough for oysters to be consumed raw.
But if environmental quality laws had not been passed more than 30 years ago eliminating or reducing polluting discharges into Sabine Lake, all the oysters in the world would not have cleansed Sabine Lake. And if not for oyster farming in Louisiana, there would be fewer oyster reefs spread across the state filtering pollutants from the estuaries.
Please don’t let politics determine if Sabine Lake should be open for commercial harvest, but let the laws of our state help the Wildlife and Fisheries commissioners make the decision.
Alfred Sunseri, owner
P&J Oyster Co. Inc.