Weekend closures begin Nov. 23 for Apalachicola Bay commercial oyster harvesters
The commercial harvest of oysters in Apalachicola Bay will be closed on Saturdays and Sundays starting Nov. 23.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) regulations provide for the automatic weekend closure of the oyster harvest in Apalachicola Bay each year when resources on monitored oyster bars cannot sustain a harvest of 300 bags of oysters per acre. Data collected in August and November indicate that there are likely fewer than 200 bags per acre of legal-sized oysters available on East Hole Bar and fewer than 225 bags per acre of legal-sized oysters on Cat Point Bar.
These weekend closures will remain in effect through May 31, 2014.
Apalachicola Bay includes all waters within St.George Sound, East Bay, Apalachicola Bay, St. Vincent Sound in Franklin County and Indian Lagoon in Gulf County. This change does not apply to active oyster leases or recreational harvest.
The automatic closure was put in place in the mid-1980s after several hurricanes negatively impacted the bay. The closure, which acts as a method to limit harvest and give oysters time to recover from low population numbers, was successful in returning the oyster population to a sustainable harvest level.
This year’s data has shown that oyster population numbers are depleted, most likely due to prolonged severe drought and a lack of fresh water from the Apalachicola River.
Apalachicola oysters make up about 90 percent of Florida’s oyster harvest and 9 percent of all the landings from all Gulf of Mexico states.
To learn more about Florida’s commercial oyster harvest, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and select “Saltwater Fishing” then “Commercial.”