$2.7 Million In Grant Funds To Help Displaced Oystermen

By: Sandra Osborne Email
By: Sandra Osborne Email

Times are tough for the men and women harvesting oysters in Franklin County.

"During the oil spill, I probably lost 50 percent of my customers because I couldn't supply the product. Since September 1st, I've closed down all of my routes except just for a few," said Tommy Ward of 13 Mile Oyster House in Franklin County.

That's why many are excited about the 2.7 million dollar grant that Governor Rick Scott announced Friday to help displaced oystermen around Apalachicola Bay.

Scientists still aren't completely sure what caused a shortage in the oyster, shrimp, and fish populations around Apalachicola Bay, but they say a few factors considered are: the oil spill, a shortage of fresh water in the bay, Tropical Storm Debby, and over-fishing.

"I'm really out of business. You know, I've been trying to hang on and keep a few local customers and the product in the restaurants. Just hopefully we can hold on until it gets better," said Ward.

The grant money from the Department of Labor is said to be used to hire 200 oystermen to re-shell the bay with live and dead oyster materials with the hope the bay will bounce back by next season.
Not everyone believes re-shelling will fix the problem.

In the meantime, oyster house owners like Ward say they'll fight to keep going.

"I'm in for the long haul," said Ward.

Leaders from the area have a meeting on Thursday to discuss how the funds could be best used to improve oyster and fish populations.

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