About a dozen people have been arrested in Apalachicola Bay over the past few months for harvesting oysters illegally. State officials say the oyster industry’s survival is at stake when people break the rules.
The two most recent arrests came last week when Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers caught two Franklin County residents oystering behind an area roped off because of poor water quality. It’s also illegal to harvest oysters between sundown and sunup.
Commission spokesman Stan Kirkland says taking oysters from these areas can lead to people getting sick from eating them, which can tarnish the industry's reputation with consumers. “I’m sure it has to do with people trying to skirt the rules to make money," he says.
The Apalachicola oyster industry has suffered in recent years from decreased water flow into the bay and over harvesting. Kirkland says the oysters officers seize during arrests are returned to the bay whenever possible.