Apalachicola, Fla. (WMBB) —- The annual Florida Seafood Festival kicked off Friday night. 

“In Franklin County, you know, it was built, you know, on seafood, you know, shrimp boats, oyster boats, crab boats, you know, people going out, flounder, people catching mullet, you know, selling those things,” Florida Seafood Festival’s Board Director John Solomon said. And that’s what Franklin County was built on and what makes this such a great community.”

Since 1914 the Seafood Festival has been held in Apalachicola. 

In 1963 the event was named Florida’s oldest maritime event.

Solomon said the event has grown with the community.

 “It’s one of those things that our community can our communities grow, but you don’t want to grow too fast and grow, you know, yourself,” Solomon said,

Between 18,000 and 20,000  people are expected to attend this year’s event.

Despite being held in Apalachicola, the oyster capital of the world, in recent years the oysters sold at the festival have not been locally harvested. 

In 2020 Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission suspended the harvest of all wild oysters and prohibited of on-the-water possession of wild oyster harvesting equipment from Apalachicola Bay through the end of 2025.

Residents said the band has hurt the community.

“We really need those jobs back and that it’s on the way,” Williams said. “It should be a couple more years and we’ll be back on our feet and the fishermen to be able to do what they do and kind of get back to what we you know, the great resources and we’re right here out of Apalachicola Bay.” 

Despite the economic impact, residents said they understood why the ban was put into place.

“We’re hoping that when this FWC thing comes about that we’re able to actually get people back at wild harvesting and using our aquaculture as a way to make ends meet in Franklin County,”  Solomon said.

There were nearly 10,000 oysters sold at this year’s festival all of which were from Texas.