Oystermen want summer bars open

State Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee), right, and State Rep. Halsey Beshears (R-Monticello) led t Photo available for purchase

State Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee), right, and State Rep. Halsey Beshears (R-Monticello) led the delegation hearing.

Published: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at 14:19 PM.

At Monday evening’s annual legislative deletion hearing, Franklin County’s wish list boiled down to one basic appeal.

Help the county’s seafood workers get back to making an honest living, and begin by opening up more harvesting opportunities.

Unlike typical delegation hearings, where legislators hear first from constitutional officers, county and city commissioners, and other elected officials, Monday’s affair began with an appeal from the public, and each of the speakers stuck to a single topic: the difficulties oystermen are having in bringing home a robust harvest of legal oysters.

“I’ve worked out there for about 20 years, and I’ve seen a major decline in the oysters in the past 10 years,” Jesse Page told State Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee) and State Rep. Halsey Beshears (R-Monticello). “We need to get the summer bars open. It’s killing us. I don’t think people catching small oysters have anything to do with it.

“There’s a lot of people suffering, and we’ve got a gold mine sitting out there, I’m asking for six to eight weeks, open ‘em,” he said. “They open that up out there and people can go to work like myself. I don’t want a handout.”

Later in the meeting, when all five county commissioners appeared together to speak, Commissioner William Massey made a formal appeal to the legislators to talk with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about opening up more bars during December. “They need to hear in the next few days,” he said.

As of Wednesday morning, the FWC had taken no action to open up additional bars. Shannon Hartsfield, president of the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association, took to Facebook to quell rumors the summer bars were opening this week.

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