Florida may close a bay that is nationally known for its oysters

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 Due to dwindling oyster numbers, an agency in Florida is expected to halt harvesting oysters in Appalachia Bay until the end of 2025, dealing a blow to an area that has historically produced 90% of the state’s oysters and 10% of the state’s oysters.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is set to vote on the shutdown during a hypothetical meeting. People in the region are divided between coming up with a long-term plan to save the industry and allowing it to continue on a limited basis.

“It breaks my heart, man.” Said Brandon Martina, who works for Lynn’s Quality Oysters, a seaside company that his family has run since 1971. He started working as a wholesale oyster house, but with dwindling supplies, I’ve seen boats there my whole life. They turned it into a seafood store and restaurant.

But instead of offering Apalachicola oysters, they buy it in Texas.

He said, “We went from running tractor and trailer loads to getting about eight to 10 bags a day, so we’re just starting to make the hatch rod.”

The committee issued an emergency order in July to shut down the oyster harvest on August 1 until it considers the five-year lockdown at its Wednesday meeting. The industry has struggled for years, due in large part to the depletion of fresh water flowing into the Gulf. Atlanta uses upstream water as a source of water, and because it attracts more water, it has affected the level of salinity in the bay that helps oysters thrive.

David Barber owns the wholesale and retail trade of oysters and seafood in the nearby East Point area. It’s one of fewer than a handful of wholesalers in an area that used to have dozens, but now sells Texas oysters.

However, the five-year lockdown is believed to go a long way, saying that the right conditions can help oyster populations return quickly.

“They should listen to the people who work in the Gulf, especially some of the older men,” said Barber. “I don’t think anyone in the county is opposed to shutting it down for some time to allow them to be resettled … If it takes five years, that’s another thing, but they can do it year after year.”

Sweet, savory, and plump mollusks are much appreciated outside the area, and tourists have flocked to the lost little Apalachicola – its population of 2,354 and known to locals as Apalach – to enjoy the watery scenery at restaurants serving raw, shelled oysters. From the bay that morning.

The once thriving oyster industry is part of the lifeline of Apalachicola, a city that has had to reinvent itself over the past two centuries. In the 1830s with the growth of the cotton industry, the city became the third largest port on the Gulf of Mexico, after New Orleans and Mobil, Alabama.

Cotton made Appalachia rich, but after the Civil War it turned into a new source of wealth: wood. When the wood wore off, he reinvented himself again and thrived on harvesting shrimp and oysters.

With the seafood industry damaged, Apalachicola has turned to tourism and is now known for its 19th and early 20th century buildings, quaint independent shops, restaurants, bars, and easy walking distance.

However, the oyster industry does provide job opportunities, leaving many to look elsewhere for work. For decades, Apalachicola led the country in oyster production, but the decline began about three decades ago and the industry nearly collapsed in 2012.

Shannon Hartsfield used to work in the water, but abandoned it eight years ago due to shrinking supplies of oysters. He is now working with university researchers studying the Gulf and efforts to help him recover.

“He doesn’t need to reopen in order to be able to support 100 or 150 families instead of just three or four,” Hartsfield said, remembering the days when the industry was booming. “Shoot, all the way down the shore there were oyster houses, and now there’s only one. David Barber is the only one with a peeled house in East Point, and there are only two in Appalach. That’s insane. Between Apalach and Eastpoint there were probably more than 60.” Processing plant “.

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