A handful of Franklin County oystermen who have traveled to the waters off Dixie and Levy counties to make a living have gotten a rough welcome.
According to a report by Katherine McKinney, editor of the Dixie County Advocate, an oyster boat owned by Jamie Shiver and Alexa Shannon, of Eastpoint, was burned in Cedar Key on the night of Jan. 1. The article says that the state fire marshal’s office is treating the case as arson.
Shannon told investigators that the couple “was told and warned that boats from Apalachicola would start being burnt.”
Two weeks later, according to the Advocate, Shiver and Shannon went to work on a second boat, but after a tire bearing went bad, they parked it on a county road. When they returned to fix it, “there was nothing more than a burnt shell,” according to McKinney’s report.
Shannon told the Advocate that their issues weren’t limited to Levy County, and that threats were made against them by Suwannee oystermen. She said the couple was surrounded off Shired Island at Bumblebee Creek by “a bunch of boats with multiple people on each boat with hatchets, machetes, and axe handles. One had a gun on his side.”
She said her 12-year-old nephew was in their boat, and became terrified when the mob began to try to cut their anchor rope, read the Advocate’s report.
A Facebook posting at the time by an individual who resides in the area suggests that the attacks on Shiver and Shiver may have been planned.
“That’s right buddy, f*** them AP boys,” the individual wrote. “They need to keep they a** out of Suwannee.
“They got way more water to oyster up there and I’m backing my Suwannee boys till the end,” the man wrote. “We will burn every one of them f****** boats if that’s what it takes. That don’t want a war on our home front because we will win.”
The matter drew the attention of at least one Dixie County commissioner, David Osteen, who works as deputy sheriff and correctional officer in Lafayette County.
In an interview last week, Osteen said he would like to see a separate endorsement made for the waters off the Dixie and Levy coasts, similar to that for Apalachicola Bay. “I would like to do the same thing, whatever it takes,” said Osteen. “If we come up there, we have to pay that. I want make it the same.”
The county commissioner said he heard the Franklin County oystermen have been causing problems for the local oystermen.
“They’ve been doing things they shouldn’t have been doing and it brings heat to our oystermen,” Osteen said. “I’d just as soon they stay in Franklin County if they’re going to do that crap.”
Among his allegations is that the Franklin County fishers have been harvesting from areas that were recently shelled.
“The officers said some of those guys come down from Franklin County and take some of the things we just planted,” said Osteen. “They do things like that and they bring FWC and then they nitpick everybody.
“I just know they’ve been causing problems down there,” he said. “I don’t agree with whatever happened down there, I’m not about that. I don’t agree with people destroying other people’s property.
“I just know they’ve been causing a lot of problems,” said Osteen. “If they’re going to do that, they need to stay in their own county.”