By: Mary Silvers
October 24, 2013
Governor Rick Scott is asking that Apalachicola Bay be declared an Economic Disaster Area. The harvest of oysters is down dramatically and families are suffering.
Kenny Shiver headed out on the water before sunrise and six hours later had few oysters to show for his efforts. “We got two bags, not right now, this time of year we ought to be getting 15, 20 bags a day,” says Kenny Shiver.
Alvin Marks and his wife had the same results. Their take for the day? “About 130 dollars,” says Alvin Marks.
The reasons behind the low yield are complicated.
At the height of the threat of the BP oil spill, every oyster bar on the bay was opened and oystermen were told to go get every oyster they could find.
Then the fresh water flow from Atlanta was reduced, making the oysters available to salt water predators. The Seafood Workers Association says what should be bountiful is almost nonexistent. “These guys already went all over looking for other jobs, some of them have found some jobs temporarily, some of them went for a little while and had to come back. Two bags a day, that’s not a typical day,” says Shannon Hartsfield, President, Apalachicola Seafood Workers Assn.
The oystermen want the bay closed for at least a year, with federal and state grants paying them to restore oyster beds with old shells. ”We have took and took and took and took and it’s time to put back,” says Shannon Hartsfield.
The restocking effort has been successful in the past. But a much larger scale restoration than ever before is needed for the bay to recover.