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Oyster Planning Tool

Full Title: SPAT: Shellfish Portfolio Assessment Tool

This project designed, tested, and applied a decision support tool to assist resource managers and oyster farmers in optimizing oyster resources in the State of Mississippi.

The Team: Daniel R. Petrolia (Lead Investigator, Mississippi State University,, Ardian Harri (Mississippi State University), William C. Walton (Auburn University), Just Cebrian (Dauphin Island Sea Lab), and Jason Rider (Mississippi Department of Marine Resources)

Technical Monitor: Becky Allee (

Federal Program Officer/Point of Contact: Frank Parker (

This project began in June 2017 and ended in May 2021.

Award Amount: $590,143

Why it matters: The State of Mississippi has established an ambitious goal to produce one million sacks of oysters per year and to increase the ecological and economic benefits to the state from healthy and productive natural oyster reefs and farms. This project draws on knowledge from economics, ecology, marine extension, and resource management to design, test, and put into use a decision support tool to optimize the restoration and use of oyster resources in Mississippi.

What the team did: The team began by determining the type and extent of benefits delivered by three distinct oyster cultivation practices – restored oyster reefs, traditional shell plantings, and off-bottom oyster farms – and assigned a monetary value to both their market and non-market benefits. They then developed budgets of construction and maintenance costs for restored reefs, plantings, and farms. Finally, the team worked in conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources to develop and test a decision support tool that directs the user through multiple criteria to select the portfolio of oyster cultivation practices that minimizes downside risk while maximizing benefits.

Summary of Outcome: This project began with the goal to design, test, and implement a decision tool focused on comparing the benefits (including ecosystem services) and costs associated with diverse oyster production systems. This goal was accomplished. Along the way, much was learned about this topic, which has been summarized in two publications generated by this project: Petrolia et al. (2020) and Petrolia, Walton, and Cebrian (2021). The decision tool has been demonstrated and shared with the original as well as new potential end users, and has been posted online for public access. A network of researchers and practitioners working in this area was also identified and, hopefully, expanded, as a result of this project. Three students received graduate studies support, two of which wrote master’s theses on topics related to this work. 

From the seminar “Thinking About Oyster Resources as a Portfolio of Ecosystem Services” 
Presenter: Dr. Dan Petrolia, Mississippi State University

Other Resources

Petrolia, D.R., Walton, W.C., and Cebrian, J. (2021). Oyster Economics: Simulated Costs, Market Returns, and Nonmarket Ecosystem Benefits of Harvested and Nonharvested Reefs, Off-Bottom Aquaculture, and Living Shorelines. Marine Resource Economics 37: 3.

Petrolia, D.R., F. Nyanzu, J. Cebrian, A. Harri, J. Amato, and W.C. Walton. (2020). Eliciting Expert Judgment to Inform Management of Diverse Oyster Resources for Multiple Ecosystem Services. Journal of Environmental Management 268: 110676.