Oyster Industry Continues to Struggle

At a Tallahassee seafood market just 80 miles from what used to be the world famous oyster producing Apalachicola Bay, these oysters are from Texas.

It's gotten so that the seafood market doesn't even bother trying to get Apalachicola oysters anymore because they are simply too difficult to get.

When times were good, Apalachicola oystermen were limited to 20 bags a day. They supplied 10% of the nation’s oysters and demand always outstripped supply. They wish they could be so lucky these days.

While two bags a day is now the norm, it could get worse. Low oyster count force Fish and Wildlife regulators to close the bay on weekends.

"The idea is to give the, the bay a little bit of a break from harvest and hopefully that would help increase the numbers in future years," said FWC spokesperson Amanda Nally.

The Seafood Workers Association President wants to see harvesting shut down completely and the oystermen put back to work replanting shells.

Shannon Hartsfield, President of the Apalachicola Seafood Workers Assn., said, "I like to see the bay close and the oystermen go in and restore our bay. That way we could still sustain our living here."

Meanwhile, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says the bay is wrongly playing second fiddle to other water issues in the state.

"Apalachicola bay needs to be an all hands on deck approach," said Putnam.

And the shortage of Apalachicola oysters is pushing up the price of oysters from everywhere, nearly doubling what consumers pay for a dozen.

Florida is asking the US Supreme Court to intervene in the water war with Georgia and Alabama that is restricting fresh water into the bay.

Four million dollars from the BP settlement is also being diverted to do another study. Neither alternative offer a quick solution for the people who make their living on the bay.