A special place

"If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, it is a special place where I spend my afternoon."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Trouble in the Bay

    Don't worry. This blog isn't going to become a "daily news" site, but I need to tell you about what has happened here. The oysters in the Apalachicola Bay and on down the gulf coast are dead. The people that have made oystering their livelihood for generations say there aren't enough oysters to harvest for them to make a living..
    Apalachicola is said to have the best oysters in the world. (I'm not a big fan but I've tried to acquire a taste since I live here and these are said to be the best). Franklin County, Apalachicola Bay, produces 2.3 million pounds of the 2.66 million pounds produced in Florida every year. But now the beds, or flats, are dead. This is devastating for the area.
    Local and state officials have stated many reasons for the high mortality rate. Too much salt, not enough salt, a parasite called dermo has festered in the mollusks, and the severe storms we've had have churned up the beds. All of these things are weather related. Bad weather and storms are nothing new to this island and the oysters have always survived. This was my first summer here but I was told it was very mild. The oysters shouldn't be dead.  
   .There is another probable reason for this disaster that is not being mentioned. The bp oil spill of April, 2010. It is debated as to how close the oil got to the island but it was not close enough to have a direct impact. But it couldn't be predicted at the time as to how close it would get, therefore officials opened up the entire bay for harvesting oysters. There was a sense of panic and the beds were probably over harvested but that would not have created the current problem. The shortage of oysters now comes from the fact that they're dead, not because they were over harvested and haven't had time to grow. Four out of five oysters are dead. 
    When the oil spill occurred, it took months for bp to get the huge leak completely stopped, so  chemicals were used to help disperse the oil. The quicker they could make the oil disappear the sooner it would be forgotten. At least by the people who don't live with it's consequences every day. Out of sight, out of mind. Well, more than likely those chemicals have reached Apalachicola Bay and are moving down the coast and killing the oysters. The shrimping in the area has also come to a halt. One chemical that is said to have been used is Benzine. If this is the case, these oysters aren't coming back and officials need to plan for the future.

     When I listened to the news today the governor stated that what has happened in the bay will just  have to "run it's course". Nothing has been said about reseeding the beds, analyzing the water, or collecting oysters for testing. The oyster men and the rest of the local community are feeling like mushrooms and they're having doubts about what they are being told. 
    Franklin Co. pays out less in unemployment than any other county in Florida. That's because most of the people here are self employed. They are without benefits and they can't collect unemployment. Families here have been oystering for generations and have no other skills to fall back on.
   Oyster season opened the first of September and you should see oyster boats blanketing the bay. Instead you will see one or two. This is the only place in the country where a pair of tongs and a little boat are used to collect oysters. It's done this way to protect the beds. It's a sad sight to look out and see the bay void of any oyster boats.

    The governor is asking for federal aid and trying to set up state funds to help these people when it seems maybe bp should be supplying the aid. If these chemicals are to blame for this disaster, the Apalachicola Bay is in trouble. I hope I'm wrong, but you do the math.  

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