The newly opened oyster hatchery at Two Mile has already sustained a costly theft, and owner-operator Cary Williams is offering a hefty reward to anyone helping apprehend the culprit.

Williams, who opened the Apalachicola Oyster Company nursery at 456 US Hwy 98 in May, is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever it was that stole a dozen bags of oyster spat last week for the company’s farm site in Apalachicola Bay.

Williams said the spat, hatched at the U.S. 98 site for breeding stock, was discovered missing from the farm site sometime before Wednesday, July 10. He valued the loss at about $15,000, noting that at maturity the oyster loss could be calculated at as much as $150,000.

He said such theft is a third degree felony, with the law also calling for a $10,000 fine for aquaculture species raised at a certified aquaculture facility.

Williams said the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services requires reporting of oyster stock, which could hamper the thieves’ ability to fence their stolen spat.

In addition, he said he plans to continue to offer a reward in the future should any thefts occur.

Lt. Ronnie Jones is working the case for the sheriff’s office. He can be reached at 370-6165. Identities can be kept confidential.