Oysters

Kate Payne via WFSU

Wakulla County’s commercial fishermen say they want to cooperate with local oyster farmers, within limits. The announcement comes when tensions are escalating between the groups, after vandals tampered with aquaculture equipment in the area.

Peter via flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/augustusoz/

Vandals tampered with oyster aquaculture equipment in Wakulla County this weekend, which investigators say is a felony offense. WFSU spoke with one of the farmers, who says the incident is derailing this year’s crop.

JB Mellquist via flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/jbmellquist/6823148831/

County and state officials are investigating reports of vandalism at North Florida oyster farms. According to the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office, navigational markers were tampered with at oyster aquaculture operations in Skipper Bay. 

Chris73 via wikimedia commons

Summer’s here and that means oyster season in Apalachicola Bay.

UF/IFAS / http://www.wec.ufl.edu/oysterproject/

A decade of work is paying off for a team of coastal conservationists in Florida. A team of researchers won an $8.3 million grant to restore shrinking oyster reefs.

boat on Apalachicola Bay
Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

A trial over a 26-year water fight between Florida and Georgia is underway before the U.S. Supreme Court.  A special master appointed by the court began hearing arguments Monday. 

boat on Apalachicola Bay
Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

North Florida’s famous Apalachicola oysters are still under harvest limits. The crop has been devastated in recent years due to low water flow, and high salinity levels.

Tallahassee Kicks Off Sustainability Conference

Mar 22, 2016
Stephen Nakatani/ flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/snakphotography/5037094847/

Community leaders, researchers and business owners are converging on Tallahassee this week for a conference on sustainable living.

Jason Tereska / WFSU News

The decline of the Apalachicola Bay has long been blamed on increased water use upstream—in Georgia. Critics also blame the Army Corps of Engineers for holding water in Lakes Lanier and Seminole—not letting enough run downstream to feed the Apalachicola Bay. But not everyone believes the Bay’s problems are entirely the fault of water management policies.

Jason Tereska / WFSU News

An hour and a half’s drive southwest of Tallahassee is the port city of Apalachicola. The 200-year-old town is home to a dominant industry: seafood. And in that industry, the oyster is king. But over the past 10 years, it’s gotten hard to make a living on the oyster and the bay.

Florida State Parks

A group of local scientists and environmentalists met Friday to discuss the health and conditions of Northwest Florida’s waterway. The group is concerned about how state officials are handling water issues.

Florida Senate

Florida’s oyster industry has hit rock bottom, and the effects are rippling from the waters of Apalachicola Bay and Suwannee Sound to dinner plates in Tallahassee. The problem is so bad, a conservative Republican lawmaker wants to change all the rules.

Calico Jack’s is a Tallahassee fixture and magnet for oyster lovers like Mark Straubinger.

“I eat here when it’s oyster season as much as possible…”

Since the industry nosedived in 2012, Straubinger’s been watching the oysters shrink and his dinner check climb.

boat on Apalachicola Bay
Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

Officials are expecting to kick off a new Apalachicola Bay restoration project this fall, paid for with a $6 million federal grant. The money will be distributed through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. DEO spokeswoman Jessica Sims says the dollars will help fund several restoration and education projects in the area.

beer serving
Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

A new craft beer brewery in coastal Apalachicola is a point of pride and an economic driver for a community that was hit hard by the oyster industry's recent decline. The historic Panhandle community celebrated the grand opening of Oyster City Brewing Company this week.

At this year’s National Oyster Day celebration, Apalachicola had an extra reason to celebrate. On a downtown street lined with palm trees and restored old buildings, a band plays outside the tap room of Oyster City Brewing Company.

R.Benk / WFSU-News

    

A quarter of a million dollars doesn’t seem like much for a state that has an almost $80 billion budget. But, one particular environmental school has its fingers crossed, hoping Governor Rick Scott approves its relatively tiny small appropriation. It’s money the school’s officials say could help save a $71 million Florida industry.

Bob Ballard carefully swings open the door to a large room and flips on the light switch. Half of the area’s space is taken up by thousands of cylindrical oyster cages – stacked passed the room’s large windows and touching the ceiling.

David Moynahan / David Moynahan Photography

Last summer, politicians and citizens crowded a U.S. Senate panel hearing in Apalachicola to demand action on dwindling water flows from Georgia to the Apalachicola river basin. But, some river enthusiasts say Florida’s focus on the lack of water from its northern neighbor is narrow and shortsighted.

Thomas Andrew Gustafson

Millions of dollars in 2010 Gulf oil spill settlement money have been set aside for an Apalachicola Bay oyster restoration study. The project comes on the heels of the Panhandle bay suffering a devastating 50 percent loss of its oyster harvest.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will spend five years evaluating a common oyster restoration method: putting down empty oyster shells -- called "substrate" in seafood worker lingo -- in the hope that baby oysters will attach to them.

Eddy Teach's Google business page

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is asking the federal government to provide long-term financial assistance for struggling Apalachicola Bay business owners. Scott wants the U.S. Small Business Administration to declare Franklin County a disaster area.

If the federal government bestows the disaster designation, business owners there would be eligible for low-interest, long-term loans. Patrick Sparks, co-owner of Eddie Teach’s Raw Bar, says he’s lost thousands of dollars per seat in his 77-seat establishment on St. George Island because of the oyster shortage.

R.Benk / WFSU-News

Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi followed through this week on an August promise to take legal action against their state’s northern neighbor to force it to release more water. But, Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, argued that Florida’s governor is just wasting taxpayer money.

Florida Politicians Rally Behind Oyster Industry

Aug 16, 2013
R.Benk / WFSU-News

More than 200 community members filled the steps of the Franklin County Courthouse, waving signs, chanting slogans and signing petitions. There was also no shortage of politicians in Franklin County Tuesday. Those running for office like Democratic congressional candidate Gwen Graham and those holding office like her opponent Republican Congressman Steve Southerland found themselves on the same side of an issue. State Senator Bill Montford, whose district includes Apalachicola, told a thunderous crowd oysters aren’t a partisan issue.

Apalachicola oysters
Thomas Andrew Gustafson

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.

The Florida oyster industry has suffered in recent years from fights over fresh water, the BP oil spill, and the impact of predatory species.  But a cultivation method new in Florida could help turn the industry around.

There’s a gentle breeze coming in from Oyster Bay.  There are some plastic chairs out at the end of the wharf looking out on the swaying reeds.  The marshlands stretch a mile out from this sleepy marina.

Apalachicola Oyster Report Thinks Of Ways To Repopulate The Bay

Apr 26, 2013
Florida SeaGrant

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.

Scott Wants $3 Million For Apalachicola Bay Restoration

Feb 25, 2013
Jessica Palombo / WFSU-FM

Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants the state to invest in one Panhandle community on the brink of environmental and economic collapse. Scott’s including $3 million for Apalachicola Bay water projects in his proposed budget.

Oyster fisherman, devastated by water-quality issues and poor harvests in recent years, have been asking for state aid. And, on Monday, speaking at an environmental research center near the bay, Scott said, he’s heard them.

WFSU-FM

Oystermen in Florida’s iconic Apalachicola Bay say they are facing a crisis which amounts to a ‘perfect storm’ causing an oyster fishery collapse. They are asking for a concerted effort by Florida officials to overcome decades of legal battles with neighboring states (Georgia and Alabama) and the federal government to quickly restore the flow of freshwater to the Bay.

Host: Trimmel Gomes

Guests:

Past President of the Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Don Ashley

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