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Oyster Aftermath

By: Mike Vasilinda
By: Mike Vasilinda

Apalachicola Bay is partially open for oystering. The bay normally supplies 90 percent of the oysters eaten in Florida and 10 percent nationally.

Hurricane Dennis covered several of the beds with sand and silt; that means there will likely be fewer oysters available for some time.

Ray Tucker and two friends spent half a day oystering. Their take? A dozen bags worth about $150 and split three ways.

Ray Tucker says, "You have to work about three times as hard to get as many as you normally get, and about that much longer. A lot of small ones and a lot of dead ones."

Processor Grady Leavins says Hurricane Dennis is about to make these world-famous gems much more scarce.

Grady Leavins says, “So what does that do for people who live in Tampa, Miami, Orlando that want Apalachicola oysters?”

"Wow, that means that they're just not going to be able to for a while I think to get exactly what they want when they go to a raw bar."

Back on shore, boat after boat says the storm has made the oysters harder to gather. Harley Allen was able to buy just one third of the oysters he usually buys for distribution.

Harley Allen says, "Yesterday we got 52 bags in is what we got, and we usually get 150, something like that."

The lost production in just one day of this store alone took more that $1,500 out of the local economy. While fewer boats on the water and fewer oysters is a fact of life here for some, Dennis is the end of a livelihood.

There is minimal state help for those out of work, and for those who are still working, paying the bills is getting harder and harder.

The Department of Environmental Protection is quelling fears of contamination via sewer systems, saying there were no leaks at four of the five systems near the bay. A lift station on Saint George Island released about 200 gallons, but it's been treated and is not considered a human health threat.


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