They are one the best known seafood staples in Louisiana. Yet, underwater, oysters are facing an uphill battle.
"We didn't have a good reproductive cycle this spring," said seafood processor Mike Voisin, of Motivatit Seafood in Houma, a member of the state's Oyster Task Force.
The problems began last year with the BP oil spill, when the state opened fresh water diversions from the Mississippi River. That fresh water killed oysters, which rely on a delicate balance of fresh and brackish water to survive. More fresh water was released during high river levels this spring, and there are now fewer oysters around.
In an average year, Louisiana produces about 250 million pounds of oysters. However, this year, it is expected to be half that amount - and it will be even less than that next year.
"I project next year, 2012, we'll be down to about 35 percent of our traditional production," said Voisin, who is also on the commission for Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Part of the problem is that in addition to the fresh water, spat - or baby oysters - have not been growing as they usually would in the coastal waters of Louisiana - especially in those impacted by the spill.
"I get oyster fishermen calling me all the time telling me the new rock that they're putting out there, they come out a couple weeks later, no spats on the rocks," said St. Bernard Councilman Fred Everhardt. "This is a prime time for spat."