Pearl of the Ocean

First you shuck 'em, then you drop 'em, and finally you pile 'em up, but what's next for the oyster shells depends on the processor.

Some warehouse managers sell the piles to be used for roadwork or landscaping, but for over a century most folks living in East Point have helped put the shells back where they came from.

David Cole, a marine captain, says, “Dealers have always donated shell, but some have other demands and haven't been participating freely.”

He's talking about shell planting, a program under the Department of Agriculture where shells are placed back in the bays to replenish the oyster beds. However, the stock piles are depleting at a rapid rate.

Mark Berrigan with the Florida Division of Aquaculture says, “Right now we've had to curtail some planting because we're not getting the material we'd like to have.”

Berrigan says they typically plant 250,000 bushels a year. This August they're down to one-fourth that amount, a shortfall local oystermen can't afford.

David Cole adds, “The issue is getting to be if they want to help the industry then we really need the shells for the program.”

A program that helps keep these boats on the water year round.