New Oyster Farming Technique Approved

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By: Lanetra Bennett
June 25, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - A change in harvesting technique is expected to boost production.

"I feel kind of like Christopher Columbus did when they went in front of the king and his court and said can we sail off and discover America." Says, Leo Lovel of Spring Creek Oyster Co.

Lovel went before Governor Rick Scott and Cabinet members Tuesday to ask to change how he harvests oysters.

Lovel has a one and a half acre lease in Alligator Harbor in Franklin County.

Harvesters are only allowed to grow oysters within six inches from the bottom of the bay.

The cabinet approved the modification. Therefore, now Lovel can float his oyster cages anywhere from the bottom to the top of the water.

Lovel says, "We're very pleased. There's no doubt. We've killed enough on the bottom to know that the ones off the bottom do very, very well."

Adam Putnam, Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture, says, "These are techniques that are going to allow us to keep these jobs and continue to keep the seafood industry employed."

Lovel brought a few experimental oysters to the meeting to show the cabinet members. They were planted last August, and cabinet members were impressed by their large size.

Lovel says he hopes the modification to his lease will lead to the law being changed to allow all Florida harvesters to use the new technique.

Florida Department of Agriculture Press Release

Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam and the Florida Cabinet today voted to approve expansion of aquaculture leases in Franklin County that will enable Spring Creek Oyster Company to use the full water column to grow oysters, the first enterprise of its kind in an area where the wild oyster industry is struggling.

“This new oyster farming technique could be one of the keys to saving the oyster industry in Florida,” Commissioner Putnam said. “We’re hopeful it will increase productivity, create jobs and supplement traditional oyster harvests.”

Franklin County’s wild oyster industry in the Apalachicola Bay has declined substantially in recent years. Spring Creek Oyster Company recently began experimenting with the cultivation of oysters in cages to serve at its Spring Creek Restaurant in Crawfordville. The oysters were farmed on the company’s current submerged land leases used for clams in Alligator Harbor.

Spring Creek Oyster Company requested approval of the Florida Cabinet for use of the full water column to suspend oyster cages. This places the oysters in the most nutrient-rich part of the water, which reduces predators, shortens the grow-out time and improves survival rates.

The two leases that were modified today are 1.5 acres each in the Alligator Harbor Aquaculture Use Zone near St. Teresa Beach in Franklin County. Spring Creek is currently in compliance with the terms of the two leases, which expire in 2022, and with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Aquaculture Best Management Practices. The proposed changes will not have adverse impacts to existing shellfish beds or other natural habitats.

For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, click the link below.

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