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Florida oysters in crisis: ‘Our industry needs to be shut down’

Updated: Jun 21, 2018


In 2012, Apalachicola Bay oyster fishers harvested more than 3 million pounds of oyster meat, roughly 92 percent of the Florida oyster harvest and 10 percent of the harvest nationwide. In 2013, that total dropped to around 1 million pounds, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared a fishery disaster on the bay. APALACHICOLA, Florida — Less than three years ago, the Apalachicola Bay oyster fishery was one of the most productive in the nation. Now Florida officials and a group representing the commercial fishing industry are saying the bay oyster harvest may have to shut down completely for 18 months.

Through May 2014, just 126,142 pounds had been harvested in the bay, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) figures.

Things in the bay have gotten so bad, oyster fishermen can barely pull out enough oysters to pay for the gas their boats use, said Shannon Hartsfield, president of the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association.

“Our industry needs to be shut down,” Hartsfield told the Tallahassee Democrat.

When reached by phone, Hartsfield stood by those remarks and said that while his members are afraid of the consequences of closing the fishery, they know something has to change. Hartsfield said the organization has more than 600 members representing a commercial seafood industry that provides between 12,000 and 14,000 jobs within the county.


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