A Necessary Step: FWC to Close Apalachicola Bay
APALACHICOLA - Apalachicola Bay in the Panhandle was once a thriving oyster producer, providing 90 percent of the wild oysters produced in Florida. Sadly, this Bay has drastically declined in productivity in the last ten years. Water withdrawals by Georgia from tributaries of the Apalachicola River have dramatically reduced freshwater flow into the Bay. As oysters only live at a certain salinity level, this alteration and additional stressors, including continued fishing pressure, have resulted in a massive decline in oyster populations.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), recognizing the dire situation at the Bay, has recently moved forward with suspending the harvest of wild oysters.
“This is not a complete solution, but it is an important action that will support oyster recovery,” Preston Robertson, President of Florida Wildlife Federation said. “It will take time and a well-coordinated effort on the part of state agencies, scientists, and the oystermen to bring back this once fabled oyster fishery, one which flourished since the mid 1800’s.”
FWC plans to use the moratorium on taking wild oysters, proposed to extend through 2025, to reinvigorate the Bay ecosystem, the fishery and the economic livelihoods of local residents.