Franklin County Oysterman: “We’re going to lose everything" - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Franklin County Oysterman: “We’re going to lose everything we’ve ever worked for”

Posted: Updated:

For many residents of Franklin county, oystering is a way of life; but now, these residents say their livelihood is in trouble due to a severe lack of viable oysters to harvest in the Apalachicola Bay.

News 13 spoke to local oystermen who are reaching out to local and state officials for immediate assistance

Many said oystering is all they know, and if that goes, their city may become a ghost town.

"They are going to lose everything they've ever worked for," said oysterman "Peanut" Shiver.

"I don't know how families are going to survive," said his wife and fellow oysterman, Betty Shiver.

For the oystering couple, making a decent living these days seems down right impossible.

They say the Apalachicola Bay, known for its big beautiful oysters, isn't producing.

The cause? Perhaps a lack of fresh water, over harvesting, or even possible remnants of the BP oil spill.

They just don't know, but their situation grows dire.

"A lot of people, all they do is depend on this bay out here oystering and if it's not here they can't make it, and it's not here and everybody knows it's not here," said Mr. Shiver.

The Shivers said it's getting harder to buy the basic necessities, to put food on the table, and these oystering veterans said they fear the inevitable.

"This is all we've all got left. This is the only bay probably in the state of Florida that you can come and work and try to make a living, and now people can't even make a living here," said Mr. Shiver.

They aren't alone.

Thursday evening, a standing room only crowd filled with Franklin County oystermen reached out to the Franklin County Commission for much needed assistance.

A letter from Governor Rick Scott read by Chairwoman Pinki Jackel outlined the seriousness of the situation.

"He is writing a letter to the acting Secretary of Commerce in the US Department in Washington DC… (reading) Dear Secretary, on behalf of Florida's oyster industry, I respectfully request that you declare an official fishery failure, due to a fishery resource disaster of Florida's oyster harvesting areas in the Gulf of Mexico, particularly in the Apalachicola Bay," read Jackel.

Scott's letter outlined that 2500 jobs are being affected.

Meanwhile, County Commissioners showed sides of compassion and realism.

"We're going to save this bay out here, just like this Commission has for many, many years, and just like you have for many, many years. We're going to save this bay...because it's worth saving," said Cheryl Sanders.

"If we don't do something to help Mother Nature, I don't think she can come back this time," added Commission Bevin Putnal.

Thursday, staff representatives of many Florida politicians, including Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Steve Southerland were present, also offering support.

All vowed to find available funding to replenish the bay and keep these people in their jobs.