(NSF) — Members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be asked on Dec. 16 to finalize the suspension of wild-oyster harvesting in Apalachicola Bay for the next five years.
The issue, which will be part of a two-day online commission meeting, stems from efforts to improve the oyster population and revitalize the collapsed fishery. Commissioners on July 22 directed agency Executive Director Eric Sutton to issue the ban through executive order. However, on Oct. 7, commissioners agreed to hear more input from residents in the Northwest Florida area about the $20 million revitalization plan. At the July 22 meeting, then-Franklin County Commission Chairman Noah Lockley, Jr., cautioned the ban will be the latest issue hurting jobs in the community, which in the past few years also has faced Hurricane Michael, home-destroying wildfires and the coronavirus pandemic.
Money for the restoration effort is coming from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefits Fund. That fund receives money from a settlement with BP and Transocean over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
The bay, which once supplied more than 90 percent of Florida’s oysters, has been on life support for nearly a decade due to drought, overharvesting and, according to Florida officials, excessive water use by Georgia. The bay is at the southern end of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system, which starts in northern Georgia.
The U.S. Supreme Court indicated in October it will hear oral arguments in a long-running legal battle between Florida and Georgia about divvying up water in the system, but the court did not specify when.
Source: News Service of Florida