APALACHICOLA, Fla. (WMBB) — Oysters used to be Franklin County’s largest industry.
Franklin’s Promise Coalition is trying to preserve the oyster’s place in local history.
They used to be called “World Famous Apalachicola Oysters,” but oyster harvesting isn’t even allowed in Apalachicola Bay until 2025, to give oyster beds a chance to rejuvenate.
The Conservation Corps of the Forgotten and Emerald Coasts is trying to help that process.
“We are really focusing this year on Oyster Corps and that is oyster habitat restoration, strengthening our shorelines through living shoreline and marsh work, and the diversification of our economy with oyster aquaculture,” Franklin’s Promise Coalition Director Joe Taylor said.
Students from the Conservation Corps deployed 21,000 oysters in Apalachicola Bay on Tuesday.
It gives them hands-on experience with oyster farming.
“The main goal is, one to just make sure everyone has the experience of being on an oyster lease and that this is a potential career opportunity and to know the process,” Taylor said. “So we are taking spat (small oysters) and putting them out in cages in the field and then we will be coming back about every month and then turning and working with the oysters and getting increasing the size of the cage and separating them into additional cages so that they have room to grow.”
The aquaculture demonstration project was funded in partnership with NOAA, the Department of Aquaculture and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
On Tuesday, Duke Energy donated $39,000 to the Conservation Corps of the Forgotten and Emerald Coast.
“The Duke Energy Foundation has supported the Conservation Corp of the Forgotten Coast and Emerald Coast since their inception 6 years ago through multiple projects and through multiple grants from the Duke Energy Foundation. We are just super excited to see a program like this flourish and grow and the impact that it’s making on young people in the region,” Duke Energy Government Community Relations Manager Danny Collins said.
The hope is that some of these young people will plan careers in the oyster industry.
“We are excited to include young people because many of these are the children and grandchild who were involved historically in that industry,” Taylor said. “So it’s kind of like the new future so we are hoping that the vision is that there is fantastic farm-raised oysters, in addition to a healthy wild-caught population and there will be this balance for Apalachicola bay.”
Taylor said they’re hoping to serve the oysters at Estuaries Day and the Florida Seafood Festival next year.