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FWC looks to repopulate oyster beds

Franklin County oyster economy
Posted at 6:34 PM, Dec 05, 2012

FRANKLIN Co. (WTXL) -- The oyster crop is on the decline in Franklin County. And oystermen there are now asking for help.

For a county who’s economy hangs so heavily on oysters and seafood, its help that is greatly needed.

And that's the focus this week of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting.

David barber, owner of Barber's Seafood makes a living shucking oysters. But it's a living that's becoming harder and harder to make.

“A lot of the oyster bars that are down in the bay didn't produce very well,” Barber said.

From the water to restaurants, Apalachicola bay is where 90 percent of the state's oyster supply comes from. But the health of the oyster beds in Apalachicola bay has been declining.

“Production's been off. Reproduction has been bad. I don't think we've had nearly enough freshwater coming down the river,” he said.

Not enough freshwater and not enough food and nutrients for the oysters.

Fewer oysters mean fewer jobs which in a county so reliant upon the gulf is not a good thing. It also means higher prices for you.

“Well you'll see it in your local market. You'll see the prices increase on oyster if they're available at all,” said David Heil, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. They're holding a two day meeting in Franklin County this week to focus on ways to increase the health of the oyster population.

It's a battle against Mother Nature, Heil says, but there are things they're doing.

“In the meantime we can move oysters from place to place, employing fishermen to do that. In areas where they don't grow very well and put them in places that they do grow well and then they'll be accessible to harvest. We can improve the structure of the wreath by putting oyster shell out there and employ fishermen to do that as well,” said Heil.

But oystermen like David Barber say what will really help the economy the most is just some better weather.

“Nothing's going to replace Mother Nature. We need conditions just to get right and the bay really produces a lot of oysters when conditions are right, when we have a lot of rain and the weather is colder and the river's really flowing,” Barber said.

But for now, Barber's going to keep on shucking.