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Environment

Florida Shuts Down Oyster Harvesting In Apalachicola Bay Through 2025

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Jessica Meszaros
/
WUSF Public Media

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted for the ban in an effort to replenish the oyster population.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted Wednesday to shut down oyster harvesting in Apalachicola Bay through the end of 2025.

The agency voted unanimously for the closure what will deal a blow to an area that historically produced 90% of the state’s oysters and 10% of the nation’s.

It’s a last-ditch effort to restore the bay’s oyster population, which has declined dramatically thanks to water flow issues and overharvesting.

The commission issued an emergency order in July shutting down oyster harvesting on Aug. 1 and said Wednesday that if conditions improve more quickly, they may end the closure sooner.

The industry has struggled for years, in large part due to a drain on freshwater flowing into the bay. Atlanta uses the water upstream as a water supply.

Franklin County Commissioner Ricky Jones is opposed to the move. He says families count on oystering for their livelihood and worries the closure could have a lasting impact on that.

“Apalachicola Bay oysters is a brand,” Jones said. “It is a market and the longer it’s off the market, that’s going to be a market share that’s gone. “

During the five-year suspension, the FWC hopes to reestablish the oyster population by putting old oyster shells and other materials in the bay for baby oysters to settle on and grow—a process called “clutching.”

The FWC says it will spend nearly $17 million on clutching. That money comes from a grant by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

WFSU reporter Robbie Gaffney contributed to this report.

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