Oyster farmers and commercial fishermen try to meet in the middle in Wakulla Co.

Oyster farmers and commercial fishermen try to meet in the middle in Wakulla Co.
Posted at 10:38 PM, Jul 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-17 19:17:06-04

WAKULLA COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) - People who work on the water in Wakulla County are one step closer to solving an ongoing dispute.

At Monday night's County Commissioners meeting, the Wakulla Commercial Fishermen's Association made a presentation about working together with area oyster farmers. For months, the two groups have gone back and forth, fighting over the state-owned waters where both their industries exist.

John Taylor, President of the Fishermen's Association, outlined their concerns to a packed house.

"We don't want to harm our traditional fishing areas such as crab grounds, blocking channels, create hazards to our boats," said Taylor.

Although the Gulf of Mexico is controlled by the state, the argument between these two industries has been playing out in Wakulla County. Taylor says his organization wants to make amends with the oyster ranchers, but he still believes no new leases should be given out in the meantime.

"The state just sent me maps of new proposed area that's in our shrimp grounds, crab grounds. I'm not going to allow it," said Taylor. "I'm not against them, I just want them to slow it down. Let our guys make our living, y'all make y'all's living, show us that you're making money, then let's see what happens."

Taylor also maintains his fishermen are not behind some recent vandalism at 16 newly-approved oyster leases.

Oyster ranchers say they're hopeful a solution is found because they just want their fair chance to make a living.

"Right now, we're experiencing growing pains," said Cainnon Gregg, owner of the Pelican Oyster Co. "It takes a little while to get a business started. Most of these people have only been out here for a year. People need a little more time to get things going. It was proposed that we make a small council where the oyster farmers speak directly to the commercial fishermen and I hope something like that happens."