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Businesses stunned after vote to suspend oyster harvesting for 5 years

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commission voted Wednesday in hopes to conserve oyster population
Posted at 6:10 PM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 18:17:16-05

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) — Businesses and Oystermen wonder what’s next after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officially voted to shut down oyster harvesting in Apalachicola Bay Wednesday.

Now there's a push to keep the bay open.

So far, more than 1,000 people have signed a petition to get Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to keep the bay open.

The bay has been closed to oyster harvesting since Aug. 1.

An emergency order was issued after seeing a decrease in oysters in the area.

Wednesday's vote means it will not reopen until 2025 unless things get better.

FWC said this bay produces 90 percent of the state's oysters.

Thomas Cooper is an 11th generation oysterman here in Eastpoint.

He says a five-year suspension on harvesting will drastically impact the industry.

"That's the only thing I've done my whole life since I was four years old, and they just kind of just took it away from us, you know, and there's a lot of people who feel like I do," said Cooper.

FWC said the harvest has dropped dramatically since 2013.

That drop has been attributed to things like low freshwater flow into the basin and fewer adult oysters.

In an area already impacted by the pandemic, closing the bay will also have an even greater impact on tourism, with the bay having a reputation for its quality oysters.