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Red Tide Threatens Apalachicola Bay Oyster Industry

October 4th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
Red Tide has been moving east in the Florida Panhandle, It is now in Mexico Beach, just east of Panama City.
It is beginning to threaten the Gulf Coast oyster industry and fisheries.
At My Way Seafood in Panacea, the fish is always fresh, the selection large but now customers are asking if red tide is a problem.
“And as long as the fish are caught alive, they are not harmed. Shrimp and Crabs red tide does not bother,’ said Debbie Long with My Way Seafood.
Concern is about the heath of seafood is spreading, just as red tide is moving closer to what used to be the oyster capital of Florida, Apalachicola Bay.
Right now the wind is blowing east to west, and that’s what’s keeping the red tide out of this bay.
The few remaining oystermen here are limited to two bags a day.
That’s $120 before gas and supplies.
Red Tide is on their mind.
“Once red tide moves into our bay, they’ll shut our bay down for harvesting, but it won’t kill the oysters,” said Shannon Hartsfield with the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association. “But the oysters won’t be fit for consumers.”
There were just nine oyster boats on the water, down from more than 200 when this area produced 10% of the nations oysters.
Now Red tide threatens to take away what little livelihood these oystermen have left.
“Gonna be out of work, nothing to fall back on,” said Oysterman Steven Tucker.
Red tide isn’t new to the bay.
A dozen or so years ago, oystering was shut down for five months.
It’s never really recovered since.
In addition to facing a threat from Red Tide, the bay continues to see salinity levels rising as a result of low water flow from the north.
As the salt content rises, predators feed on the oyster beds, diminishing the harvest.

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