Experts say poor water flow began the ecological crisis in Apalachicola Bay and its effect on the juvenile oysters caused the extreme decline in the shellfish’s population. And a new report out this week by Florida SeaGrant at the University of Florida details the practical steps to alleviate the area’s hardships.
“You usually don’t observe populations crashing that fast in nature. It suggests that some catastrophic environmental thing happened and we don’t know what that was,” says Dr. Karl Havens, Director of Florida SeaGrant.
It’s believed droughts most likely led to the deadly effects on adolescent oysters and in turn the whole population in Apalachicola Bay. But for the counties surrounding the bay who’ve lost a large chuck of their economy, Dr. Havens says, once the drought ends, they’ve got some ideas on how to restore the bay.
“Pretty large scale restoration program of getting shells and reestablishing some of those historic oyster bars. But doing it in an adaptive management framework, so you basically find out what works the best so that after a couple of years continually improve it and get more from the money you invest,” says Dr. Havens.
But the proposal doesn’t come cheap. Dr. Havens says they conducted their research without any funds. Re-shelling the bay would cost multiple millions of dollars. He thinks maybe funds found in the RESTORE Act – settlement money from the BP Oil Spill – could help.