Oystermen plead for help


Shannon Hartsfield, president of the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association, addresses Monday’s meeting.

Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 05:53 PM.

Beset by a dwindling harvest, oystermen this week appealed for steps to be taken to boost the supply of oysters in Apalachicola Bay.

At a standing-room only meeting of the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association in the courthouse annex Monday afternoon, a majority of the membership backed two proposals that were then presented the following morning at the county commission meeting:

The FCSWA wants to create a locally-owned hatchery at the county-owned Lombardi Seafood Park that would help in seeding the bay, and to make changes in the management plan for bay closures that would protect against overharvesting.

“We're the only fishing community in the world that doesn’t have a hatchery,” seafood industry Ricky Banks told his fellow oystermen Monday afternoon.

Luther Hatfield, the FCSWA secretary, presented the hatchery plan to the county commission Tuesday morning, noting that it would produce more seed faster than any other method, including that of Mother Nature. He estimated that it would cost about $70,000 to $80,000 to pipe water to the Lombardi’s at Two Mile site from across the channel and other infrastructure

The commissioners unanimously supported a motion to gather further information on how much such a hatchery would cost to construct, and whether funding could be obtained.

One possible source could be the non-profit Gulf Coast Marine Life Center, a collaborative partnership of experts from industry and academia who are now at work developing a Center of Excellence at Okaloosa Island, site, with other facilities planned along the Gulf Coast. The Okaloosa Island site will house a state-of-the-art marine finfish and shellfish hatchery, a coastal plant production facility, classrooms, and teaching laboratories, and will serve as a resource to support Sea Grant outreach programs designed to transfer knowledge to the private sector.

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