Wesley Smith says it's been a tumultuous ride on the water as he recollects his 60 years of oystering on the Apalachicola Bay. That's where oyster harvesters from across Florida gather, searching for the best oysters in the sunshine state.
It’s a bay that typically produces the best harvesting conditions for oysters, but that hasn't been the case lately.
“You have good years you have bad years, but the last two years have been real bad,” says Smith.
“We had bad weather, Red Tide, Workman's Comp issues which affected how shuckers handled the product,” says Alan Pierce.
Pierce says there's also a public scare- folks are afraid to eat raw shellfish. Although it's been a rough ride for oystermen, help is on the way, especially with state programs in place. Programs like shell planting, where harvesters plant more than 100,000 bushels of oysters on reefs in the bay for future harvests.
Cole says harvesters are compensated for transferring shells to build oyster beds. Consequently when they go to harvest there's an influx of oysters, resulting in larger profits. For longtime oystermen like Wesley, every little bit helps when dealing with an unstable industry.
Wesley jokes and says he'll ride it out until the end. Oyster harvesters are into their winter season on the water. Many of them are hoping for successful catches to make up for the slow summer season.