The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has put restrictions on the Apalachicola Bay oyster harvest this winter, but it’s also mulling plans to ban harvesting altogether if stocks don’t improve. Government officials are now calling for financial and educational support if the Commission closes the bay.
Apalachicola Bay’s oyster industry has been struggling for years as declining fresh water from Georgia and Alabama has led to a decline in oyster stocks. It’s gotten so bad that at a Commission meeting earlier this month, Executive Director Nick Wiley made it clear it may be necessary to halt harvesting altogether to allow the bay’s oysters to recover. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says if that happens the state needs to be ready to step in and support oystermen.
“The follow-up action must be to provide retraining, job training, and other forms of support to an entire working waterfront community that will have their livelihood taken away from them,” Putnam says.
Governor Rick Scott expressed similar concerns after the most recent cabinet meeting.
Already this year, the federal government has approved $6.3 million to prop up the flagging industry. Some of these funds will be used to help oystermen get job training and education.