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What's The Best Way To Grow More Oysters? Apalachicola Study Aims For Answers

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.

University of Florida Aquatic Pathobiology Lab Director Andy Kane is assisting with the project and says the study should teach oystermen how to better manage nurseries by answering questions like: “When you put down substrate, how long would you want that to remain closed without fishing pressure on it?"

Kane says the study is being designed with input from seafood workers. He says the resulting best practices will be applicable to oyster fisheries anywhere in the world.

“This is a unique opportunity to really understand if you put in so much effort or so much physical material into the bay to restore it, what are the options that are going to be optimal with regard to seeing those efforts sustained?” he says.