FWC to vote on closing Apalachicola oyster fisheries

Published: Jul. 6, 2020 at 4:48 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will vote later this month to close what was once one of the richest oyster-producing bays in Florida and the nation.

It’s for the bay’s own good and has the support of those who have cherished the bay’s riches.

Before 2010, nine out of 10 oysters served in Florida came from Apalachicola. On any given day, hundreds of boats could be seen culling for oysters.

But no more says Apalachicola Riverkeeper Georgia Ackerman.

“An oyster fisheries collapse was declared in 2012 by NOAA and we simply haven’t seen the oysters make significant recovery,” said Ackerman.

Several droughts saw the freshwater flow from Georgia into the bay cut dramatically, allowing saltwater fish to decimate the oyster beds.

“Black Drum, Red Drum. I mean, they’re eating our oysters,” said Shannon Hartsfield with the Franklin County Seafood Workers in a 2018 interview.

Oyster production has dropped so dramatically, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will vote later this month to close the bay to oystering until the end of 2025.

It has the support of the local community.

“They should have done it about 10 years ago,” said Steve Rash with Water Street Seafood, a seafood distributor in the Bay Area. “It’s not only to provide for the oyster industry but all of the eco, the environmental services. You know, the fish, the shrimp, the crabs.”

The state is going to be spending $20 million to re-seed the oyster beds, using old oyster shells.

The same technique worked after a 1985 hurricane destroyed the oyster beds.

“Ultimately, if we are able to recover this population, we bring both a strong ecology and economy back to the region,” said Ackerman.

The ban could take effect as early as August 1.

But despite all of the hopes and money being spent on the bay’s future, it will all come down to Mother Nature cooperating.

Copyright 2020 Capitol News Service. All rights reserved.

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