New Oyster Harvesting Technique Approved

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From processing houses to restaurants, Franklin County's seafood industry has been on the brink of extinction since the Gulf Oil Spill.

Seafood Grill and Steakhouse Owner Jerry Hall says, "How long have we been importing? Probably six months."

Scientists are still trying to determine why the oyster crops have disappeared.

Some believe it's part of the water wars between Florida, Georgia and Alabama: less fresh water flowing down the Apalachicola river into the bay.

Importing from out of state might address the demand, but not repopulating the world-wide famous Apalachicola oyster beds.

Hall says, "Apalachicola oysters are valued all over the world. So sometimes we have to kind of get in line to get our share when of course everyone in the country is clamoring for them."

Oyster Harvester Lynn Martina says, "We used to bring a lot in from Texas and Louisiana but I've decided to go just with Florida oysters and I don't know if that's going to work anymore."

At Tuesday's Florida cabinet meeting, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam announced a new technique pioneered by the Spring Creek Oyster Company.

Workers are farming oysters in Franklin County with phenomenal results.

"This is one example of some pretty neat technology and some neat new techniques that are going to allow us to keep these jobs and keep the seafood industry in Florida."

Martina adds, "Raising the baskets. He says right now they're on the bottom, and he's wanting to raise him up. I guess…I'm thinking like they do the crab baskets."

The "water column" method involves cultivating oysters in cages, protecting them from predators.

Martina says, "Mr. Lovel brought over some baskets and some oysters that he has harvested. The oysters were actually ten months old and I was quite surprised at the size."

In such desperate times, a possible solution is exactly what this city needs.

"I think anything that our local government or the state government can do to help the process is only going to help everybody."

The new water column process requires a lease area from the state, which could mean a higher starting cost.

The cabinet granted the Spring Creek Oyster Company a state lease through the year 2022.

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