Officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission cracked down on night harvesting of oysters last month.
From Sept. 9 through 24, an operational detail was conducted on the waters of Apalachicola and Ochlockonee bays. Because recent stock assessments of oysters in Apalachicola Bay reveal a reduced number of shellfish, prices for oysters have increased greatly, and FWC officers received information from the field that commercial oyster harvesters were harvesting at night within the closed waters of Apalachicola Bay.
Officers John Allen, Matt Gore, Wil Raker, Percy Cook, Blake Hoelscher, Jason Carroll, Steven Cook, Pilot David Calianno, and Lt. Charlie Wood participated in the detail, in which vessel patrols were conducted for 10 nights.
Seven vessels and nine harvesters were inspected. Seven misdemeanor citations were issued for night harvest of oysters. Nine misdemeanor citations were issued for harvesting oysters from closed waters. Four written warnings were issued for insufficient vessel safety equipment. Along with the enforcement action taken by officers, approximately 25 bags of oysters were seized and returned alive to the water.
The interception and seizure of these shellfish harvested from closed waters prevented their introduction into the commercial shellfish market, potentially lessening the chance of illness from ingestion by consumers.