Beginning in November, Apalachicola Bay oystermen will be required to have their daily catch certified and tagged at a check station before they can sell it to a local dealer. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will establish two stations on floating vessels. One will be located at the Eastpoint boat ramp on Patton Drive and the other will be at Lombardi’s Seafood Park in Apalachicola at the west edge of town. Harvesters may bring their catch in by water or on a trailered vessel.
This management tool is being implemented in an effort to promote recovery of the ailing oyster fishery. It is anticipated that it will reduce the number of undersized oysters that tend to get harvested when the numbers of legal 3-inch oysters are so limited. The strategy has significant support by oystermen and local officials who remember when check stations were utilized to help the bay recover more quickly after hurricane Elena devastated the industry in the mid-1980’s.
Harvesters need to be off the water by 2 p.m. and have until 6 p.m. to check in at the stations. The FWC anticipates running the check stations through March at this time. Currently there is an allowable limit of 5% undersized oysters in checked bags before the catch would be considered illegal.
Author: Erik Lovestrand