Really? The county commissioners are throwing $8 million more dollars at FSU to develop a plan to restore the Apalachicola Bay ecosystem and its oyster reefs? (See Feb. 21 Times “County backs $8M FSU project). Even though the most recent FSU longitudinal study unequivocally concluded that traditional bottom oyster (reef) culture is so subject to predation and unexplained forces that growing oysters beyond one-quarter inch is futile. In this extensive, expensive effort they failed to even look at other methods that are working locally.
Even as communities to our east have successfully transitioned to oyster and clam aquaculture, FSU continues to devour grant money in asking the elusive “why?” Yes, I’m speaking of the expanding Alligator Point cage-raised products. They are getting ready to add 21 new leases there!
How about the 30 “oyster ranchers” operating successfully in the St. Marks estuary as the Panacea Oyster Company? And how about our own T. J. Ward having to operate his successful aquaculture in another county? That is a painful reality.
Are we also willing to ignore the dramatic recovery from traditional oyster extraction methods at Cedar Key? These communities have accepted the changing context of our inshore fisheries and responded with training programs and subsidies to put water men and women back in the harvesting business – only this time their collective efforts are directly improving the water quality of our bays while confounding the opportunistic predators.
Let’s have our grief around the “collapse” of Apalachicola Bay, get out of denial that the old ways will continue to work, and get busy producing shellfish and improving water quality with aquaculture. The evidence is in.