SOPCHOPPY, Fla. (WTXL) — Oysters are a way of life for Jeff Tilley.
“Oyster Boss is an oyster processing company that’s also a farming operation as well.”
He’s the owner of Oyster Boss in Sopchoppy. Jeff is also organizing Sopchoppy’s first oyster festival.
“It was my idea that we could put together a festival that would celebrate the local guys right here in Sopchoppy.”
15,000 to 20,000 oysters, four local farmers ready to dish out some of the best fresh tasting oysters you can find. There’s one oyster you won’t find on the menu Saturday.
“Yeah around that time and a little before that was a drought,” said Doug Alderson, the Apalachicola Riverkeeper Outreach and Advocacy Director. He said a drought in 2012 and the decrease in freshwater flowing from Georgia devastated the oyster population in the Apalachicola Bay.
“That was causing more saltwater to come into the Apalachicola Bay and more predators came in and caused the oysters to collapse.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission instituting a five-year ban on harvesting. Jeff says the impact has been felt across the area. The ban he said — gives a chance for nature and the bay to heal.
“It didn’t have much of an effect as you might think because the bay pretty much shut itself down,” Tilley said.
Almost a year into the ban, oyster-men are saying they’ve felt something they haven’t felt in some time: hope.
“It’s from my understanding talking to these guys that the bay is coming back. The oysters are coming back.”
Keeping harvesters and farmers shucking along the way.
“We’re only four years into the shutdown. There’s quite a way to go before the shutdown by the FWC will be over. And hopefully, the bays will be fully recovered by then. That’s what everybody is hoping for.”
The Sopchoppy Oyster Festival will be held downtown just off of Rose Street. The festival runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.