Potential oyster harvesting suspension could last years

Florida

APALACHICOLA, Fla. (WMBB) — Apalachicola is historically known as the Oyster Capital of the World, responsible for producing 90 percent of Florida’s commercial oysters.

That began to change over the last 10 years, due in-part to the battle with Georgia over fresh water from the Apalachicola River.

The state is hoping some drastic measures could return oysters to the area.

The FWC has proposed a draft rule to suspend oyster harvesting in Apalachicola Bay until the end of the year 2025. They are doing so in an effort to promote large scale oyster restoration.

 “We should’ve done this 10 years ago,” Shannon Hartsfield, Seafood Workers Association President said.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is putting 20 million dollars toward restoring oyster beds from Franklin to Escambia counties.

Hartsfield said recently he’s only seen a few boats harvesting oysters.

“We need to have a turnabout where we can have commercial harvesting, where more than five or six families can make a living, hundreds of families can go back and make a living like it used to be. It won’t ever be like it used to be,” said Hartsfield.

Hartsfield said the suspension won’t have an effect if it’s short lived.

“We keep on rebuilding areas of the bed, they start doing really well when the guys go and harvest them and they don’t have an opportunity to keep growing and produce more,” said Hartsfield.

But others like, David Barber, owner of Barbers Seafood, don’t believe the project is worth the long-term closure.

“We could have a really good crop of oysters in a year or two. And they have it closed for five, they’ll be sitting out there and we couldn’t use them. We don’t wanna have resources we can’t use, so no I would think they should do it from year to year,” Barber said.

The proposed oyster harvesting suspension is on the agenda for the July 22nd virtual FWC meeting. A decision will be made from there.

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