Continued concerns over a dwindling oyster population has prompted state regulatory officials to reinstate monitoring stations and to add Fridays to days off-limits to harvesters.
On Monday, operation of the two check stations, in Eastpoint and Apalachicola, began under a contract with Franklin’s Promise Coalition, slated to run at least until March 10, 2017.
The contract, at a cost of $34,776, provides six technicians from the Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast, under the supervision of officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Two will staff the station at Lombardi’s Landing in Apalachicola, with four at the Patton Street boat ramp in Eastpoint location. Technicians will be paid $12 hourly.
Amanda Nalley, a spokesperson for FWC, said travel cost for law enforcement officers will run $2,600 a week. “We anticipate they will be working for 14 weeks max for a total of $36,400,” she said. “If harvest is closed at all, let’s say, for water quality reasons, the check stations would be not be open and all of these costs could change.”
The monitoring stations will open at 10 a.m. and will close at 4 p.m. with oysters checked to verify oyster size and bag limits. Bags of oysters will then be tagged indicating that the bag had gone through a check station.
Wholesale dealers must only accept oysters specifically identified by a state tag indicating they have passed through a monitoring station. That tag, removed immediately before processing or selling the oysters, must be kept on hand and provided to FWC-authorized personnel upon request.
Wholesale dealers must also be able to provide a daily accounting of the total number of pounds of oysters in the shell received upon request.
From now through May 31, 2017, commercial and recreational harvest of oysters is prohibited on Fridays, as well as the previous days of Saturdays and Sundays.
Other regulations remaining in place through May 2017 include a commercial daily limit of three bags per person, with a bag equal to two five-gallon buckets or 60 pounds of culled oysters in the shell; a recreational daily limit of five gallons of oysters in the shell per person, or vessel, whichever is less; and a harvest closure in portions of areas 1612 and 1622 south of Sheepshead Bayou.
“Fishery managers, along with the community, remain concerned about the oyster population and are committed to using any and all management tools to help increase that population,” said Nalley.