Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Cabinet Approve Land Lease for Innovative Oyster Harvesting Technique

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Governor Rick Scott along with the Florida Cabinet approved innovative techniques to support the oyster fisheries in Franklin County.

Gov. Rick Scott said, “I’m proud to support efforts that can help Franklin County. Our Florida Families First budget provides $4.7 million for water quality restoration projects in the Apalachicola Bay estuary and oyster shelling and research to help the industry recover. These new techniques will support the oyster fisheries and help Florida families in Apalachicola.”

For more than 20 years, the State of Florida has battled Georgia and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over water that flows south from the Chattahoochee River into the Apalachicola River and Bay. Historically low water levels brought about by Georgia’s excessive consumption have caused oysters to die because of higher salinity in the Bay and increased disease and predator intrusion.

Gov. Rick Scott said, “The Cabinet’s action today allows Spring Creek Oyster Co., operating within Alligator Harbor Aquatic Preserve in Franklin County, to modify two existing aquaculture leases in order to use the full water column for oyster harvesting. Currently, the company uses the submerged land bottom to conduct oyster cultivation by placing young oysters in cages at the bottom of the waterbody. Once the oysters mature, the cages are removed and oysters harvested.

“Allowing the company to use the full water column will allow the cages to be suspended above the bottom, providing the oysters some protection from predators and greater access to nutrients as they grow. The floating cages may be the initial step in a new aquaculture practice and may become a potential alternative economic stimulus for the eastern bounds of Apalachicola Bay, which historically has produced 90 percent of the oysters in Florida and 10 percent of the nation’s supply.

“Allowing use of the full water column is the only change to Spring Creek Oyster Co.’s two aquaculture leases, which expire Jan. 29, 2022 and March 29, 2022. The company is a current submerged land leaseholder and is in compliance with the terms and conditions of two existing leases and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ aquaculture best management practices. Both the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have reviewed the proposed modification to the existing leases and determined that the activities will not result in adverse impacts to seagrasses, existing shellfish beds, natural reefs or other sensitive habitats.”

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