Five year oyster harvest ban in Apalachicola Bay in Florida causes worry around the community

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APALACHICOLA, (Fla) — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission held a virtual meeting Wednesday that could have lasting impact on the Apalachicola bay area for years to come.

Apalachicola is known as the oyster capital of the world but starting August 1 restaurants will no longer feature these wild oysters on the menu.

In what was a unanimous vote, the FWC moved forward with a five year plan to replenish the bay’s oyster supply that’s been rapidly declining over the last few years.

In the meeting, a plan was presented to restore oysters by banning oyster harvesting and prohibiting on-the-water possession of wild oyster harvesting equipment.

A 20 million dollar grant is also included in the plan for restoration efforts.

A plan to implement this executive order was also discussed which includes calling on law enforcement to make sure the new rules are carried out.

Eric Sutton, executive director for the FWC said they will continue to remain emotionally, financially, and scientifically invested in what many consider a Florida treasure.

This shortage has already affected local businesses.

“It already has over the past couple years and a lot of the other local oyster houses too and the oysterman,” said TJ Ward.

Ward and his family own 13 Mile Seafood in Apalachicola. He believes the oyster harvesting ban will be a good thing so businesses like his can once again serve Apalachiacola’s famous oysters rather than imported ones.

“Really it needs to be shut down,” said Ward. “It kind of already shut itself down.”

People from all over the world come just to see what all the buzz is about. Tourists say this ban is vital to allowing this treasure to come back.

“This town is known for their oysters so it sucks that this has happened but we’ve gotta get it back to how it was,” said Justin Clarke.

Although many do believe this harvest ban is necessary. Others fear this shutdown could hit some people’s lives in a way they cannot afford.

“I mean you’re going to close it for five years and the people are going to need some help” said Noah Lockley Junior, the Chairman of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners. “If they don’t get some help it’s like putting them in the streets. If they can’t work they can’t pay the bills.”

Lockley Junior says this down has not even gotten over Hurricane Michael, wildfires or the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“All three of them are disasters and now you add this to it and this is another disaster,” said Lockley Junior.  

According to the FWC, the commission will make a final decision on whether to implement these changes at their October commission meeting.

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