Oyster Shortage Cause Explored

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While many are struggling to come to terms with the lack of oysters in our area, others are working to determine why the shortage is happening to begin with.

According to experts, there are several factors that have caused the decline in the oyster population, but they say there's hope and an answer at the end of the tunnel--although it might not be the answer oystermen are hoping for.

While experts and oystermen recognize the impact overfishing could have had, one of the biggest factors of the shortage is the environment. Droughts have caused the mix of fresh and salt water to become difficult for oysters to grow, additionally there has been an increase in predators due to the salinity change. Coastal flooding from all the rain received in the are also had a negative impact on the population.

While this year's crop of oysters has caused problems for oystermen around Northwest Florida, experts say that there is a bright side to the problem.

"Oysters do recover relatively fast. We're already seeing spats, that's baby oysters out there," said shellfish aquaculture expert Leslie Sturmer meaning that hopefully by next summer or next fall, there will be a new crop to harvest, but for this year, there's no doubt that we have a lot of oyster lovers that love Cedar Keys as well as Apalachicola oyster that are not going to have them available or they'll be extremely high priced this winter."

Another factor that is causing the population of oysters to drop is a parasite called perkinsus--or dermo. The parasite can be fatal for oysters, but according to Sturmer has no affect on humans.

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