Severe Damage to Florida's Seafood Industry

By: Jennifer Ryan
By: Jennifer Ryan

There has been another blow to Florida's seafood industry, so severe that recovery seems impossible.

Hurricane Dennis dealt a nasty hand in East Point. It looks like the remnants of a battlefield, it smells like rotting oysters, and it desperately needs all the help it can get.

East Point, Florida harvests 90 percent of the state's oysters and employs over 1,500 commercial fishermen, fishermen who are out of work thanks to Hurricane Dennis.

A boat trip through the bay gives a firsthand look at the devastation felt in East Point. On land, oyster boats and large vessels clutter the roads.

Calvin Cheney calls East Point home, a place where fishermen survive off the bare essentials: their boats and seafood.

John Duffey, assessing the damage, says, "The oysters are the center of the economy here. It will be a long time before they regenerate until commercially harvestable."

Lynn Martina looks through the doorway of what used to be her office. The oyster house owner is already rebuilding.

Lynn says, "We lost docks, office; the building itself withstood it."

At first glance, Lynn was ready to throw in the towel, but with 30 employees relying on her business, she called in the troops. Unfortunately, that won't be the case for hundreds of her colleagues. The fishing industry has taken a beating and locals say they may never recover.

As for the oysters themselves, it could take months, even a year before oystermen can return to Apalachicola Bay because the oyster beds have to pass inspection. The water quality is pretty bad following a hurricane.

They'll process oysters from Louisiana and Texas, but right now it could be weeks before those oyster houses are able to get up and running.


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