Red Tide in the Bay

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The last two hurricane seasons haven't been kind to folks in the seafood industry, especially the oystermen, and to cap it off, a red tide outbreak in late August is still having a devastating affect on Apalachicola Bay.

The toxic algae known as red tide is responsible for killing millions of fish in the Gulf of Mexico, and now it's putting a hurt on the oystering industry.

It all started when Hurricane Katrina stirred up the Gulf waters in August. Levels of red tide brought on by storm after storm has become too high to harvest oysters.

The lack of oyster harvesting has put a strain on local oyster plants.

Since the Apalachicola Bay was closed two months ago, the state has run test after test hoping to open the bay. At a recent public meeting Franklin County officials accused the state Agriculture Department of keeping the bay closed because of four people that got sick earlier this year from eating shellfish that were poisoned with red tide.

There is currently a local push to get an expert outside of the state to test the bay, but not everyone is sure the results will be any different.

Grady Leavins, Leavins Seafood owner, says, "The only [thing] you're going to do is confirm the state findings. They are not out to conspire against us or anything. I shall never, nor will I ever go against trying to protect public health and the realties are that red tide is still there."

You can understand why the frustration is building. This year, 714 people bought licenses to commercially harvest oysters in Apalachicola Bay.

The latest state test taken on Monday in three different areas of the bay show red tide higher than federally allowed for shellfish harvesting.

Shellfish harvesting in areas Wakulla County were also closed in September because of red tide.