Scenic USA - Florida

Apalachee Bay Oystermen

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Apalachicola Bay - Big Bend, Florida

Photos by Lou Kellenberger
Lou Kellenberger Photography

     Where Florida's peninsula transitions into the panhandle, it's easy to spot a huge bend on a Gulf Coast map, interrupted by a half dozen important embayments. A series of Tongman - Apalachee Bay, Florida freshwater estuaries empty into Apalachee Bay here, creating a rich breeding ground for small fish, oysters, crabs and many other aquatic species. Also living here on the Big Bend is the Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve, the most extensive sea grass system in the United States. From this rich nursery and vast cluster of protected seagrass beds come one of Florida's most important seafood industries.
     This striking Apalachee Bay scene captures a flotilla of Franklin County Oystermen at work on the bay. Employing nearly a thousand people, Franklin County supplies more than 90 percent of Florida's oysters. A two man crew, consisting of a culler and tong-man, work in 6 to 9 feet of water. The 12 foot tongs are a simple scissor-style rake, used to dredge up oysters. The culler spreads the catch out on his board and ensures the oysters are of legal size.
     All along the Big Bend Scenic Byway, visitors will find a string of small towns, Oystermen Boats - Apalachee Bay, Florida a unique collection of small bars and seafood restaurants, and a tell-tale stack of empty oyster shells. Here, the main Big Bend industries are all about seafood. Up until now, the area enjoyed a bounty that seemed endless. Devastating oil spills or lack of rain in the Gulf are thought to be the main causes behind area's recent lack of production. Even though more than 85 percent of the land here is either federally or state protected, it's impossible to stop long distant hazards or control Mother Nature. Help is on the way for Apalachee Bay oystermen who have been experiencing the worst year on record.

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