September 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
Events Calendar
View from the Bow
View from the Stern
At the Helm: Captain Peter Burgher
Volunteer Spotlight: Robin Rickel Vroegop
Depleted Oyster Beds
QUICK LINKS



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Volunteers Wanted!
         

We have several exciting projects happening and many ways to get involved.  From helping out at lecture events to wooden boat building and restoration, to accounting, exhibits, marketing, or research, we need you!  We have a wonderful group of volunteers who get things done and have fun doing it.  

 

We offer perks such as free trips, sailing excursions, social events, and, of course, the opportunity to make a difference. 

 

To get involved, please email us

 

  

Events Calendar


Locals and Members Go FREE!

Saturday, October 6

 

Museum members and Franklin County residents can enjoy free trips and free museum admission on this special appreciation day.  

  

Choose from the excursions below.  Pre-registration is required by calling (850) 653-2500.  Pack a picnic, and please arrive 20-30 minutes before departure time.  See you Saturday!

    

~ St. Vincent Island:  8:00 a.m. through noon

~ Educational Estuary Cruise: 1:00 through 4:00 p.m

~ Kayak rentals from the docks, all day

  

Sea Fever: Wooden Boat Building, by Dan Houston  

October 6, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.  $5.

  

Dan Houston will display a few of his beautiful hand-built boats and provide a demonstration of a steam box, used to steam and bend planks.  He will discuss his lifelong passion for boats, as well as boat building techniques such as lofting and the table of offsets.  Mr. Houston has published articles on boat building in Messing About in Boats and is the author of Sea Stories and Other Tall Tales. He spent four years in the Coast Guard, worked for years in the forest products and wood preserving industry, and ran several small businesses before retiring to Pt. Washington, Florida.  He is also a US Coast Guard Licensed Captain, holding a 100-ton Master's license with a commercial towing endorsement.  The presentation will be followed by a low country boil on the docks. 

 

  

 

International Conflict at Prospect Bluff: The History of Fort Gadsden, by Rhonda Kimbrough

October 13, 2012 at 7 p.m.  $5.

 

Since obtaining an M.A. in Anthropology from Florida State University in 1990, Rhonda Majors Kimbrough has served as an archaeologist with the National Forests in Florida. She currently manages their heritage program which includes cultural resource management, forest history and tribal relations associated with a 1.2 million-acre land base.  Dr. Kimbrough will talk about the historic events at Fort Gadsden, a National Historic Landmark 15 miles upstream from Apalachicola, and their international implications.  A British fort, escaped slaves, Native Americans, General  Andrew Jackson, the American military, and the Spanish control of Florida combine into one of the most dramatic events in 19th century Florida history.  The presentation will be followed by a low country boil on the docks.

 

 

Matthew and Juliann Krogh: Life Aboard Ship During the War of 1812

October 27, 2012 at 7 p.m.  $5.

 

The Kroghs are professional living historians from Richmond, Virginia.  Throughout 2012 they have been
volunteering as part of the U.S. Coast Guard Historic Ships' Company, an Auxiliary unit created to honor and portray the mission of the Coast Guard (Revenue Cutter Service) during the bicentennial of the War of 1812.  The living history program includes uniformed sailors who describe the shipboard life of men in the Revenue Cutter Service, including demonstrations of food preparation and preservation, navigation and depth finding, the arts of the sailor, weapons use and manual of arms, surgery and medicine, sailors' games and diversions, and shipboard commands and phrases.  In addition, the HSC covers the active duty of the Revenue Cutter Service during the War of 1812 by highlighting the many actions and events that took place along America's coastal waters.  The presentation will be followed by a low country boil on the docks.  You can also try a sample of sea biscuits and grog!  

 

 

The Civilian Genesis of the American Torpedo Boat, by Dr. Edward Wiser

November 10, 2012  at 7 p.m.  $5.

 

Dr. Wiser will discuss the infusion of civilian small craft expertise into the arena of national defense, tracing the history from the American Revolution through its ultimate incarnation of the motor torpedo boat of World War Two.  His research on the evolution of small combatant craft in the United States Navy shows that the most successful of these boats have consistently come from the civilian sector.  From Vietnam to modern day counter-terror and drug interception operations, rugged, efficient boats for security, patrol, and combat are still an essential factor in law enforcement, homeland defense, and power projection.  Dr.  Wiser is a licensed merchant marine deck officer (500 gt), former artillery officer,  ABYC certified marine technician, and published author, with a Ph.D. in history from Florida State University.  He has over three decades of experience operating and maintaining a variety of small craft on the coastal waters of the Atlantic and Gulf and throughout the Bahamas, Antilles, and Central America. Dr. Wiser is an adjunct professor of strategy and policy for the Naval War College.  The presentation will be followed by a low country boil on the docks.

  

 

Apalachicola Aweigh! Maritime Aspects of Apalachicola's Cotton Trade, by Dr. Lynn Willoughby

November 17, 2012 at 7 p.m.  $5.

Award-winning author Lynn Willoughby will present on the maritime aspects of Apalachicola's international cotton trade in the 1830s and '40s, which made Apalachicola the third largest port on the Gulf coast.  Dr. Willoughby earned her Ph.D. in history from Florida State University, and is the author of Fair to Middlin': The Antebellum Cotton Trade of the Apalachicola -Chattahoochee River Valley and Flowing Through Time: A History of the Lower Chattahoochee River. She earned two teaching awards at Winthrop University as well as two book awards in history.  Her books will be available for purchase and signing at the lecture.  The presentation will be followed by a low country boil on the docks.

 

 

Build a Boat!

November 19, 2012     

 

The Six Hour Canoe will be a good family boat building project which constructs a quality wooden canoe from two 4 x 8 sheets of marine plywood and a few pieces of dimensional lumber and, with epoxy glued seams, is watertight when finished.  When completed, the canoe is 15' 3" in length with a 31 " beam. It can be paddled with kayak or canoe paddles.  Inexpensive to build using ordinary tools and materials, the canoe gives everybody access to boat building and a boat. The course runs two days with an optional day of painting on the third day.  The courses are offered starting on November 19 and December 28 .  The AMM will provide all of the materials and instructors to keep you and your friends and family on the right course.  We will build up to four boats in a weekend and group size is limited to four.  The cost is $200 per group and you take the boat home with you on your car top or in the back of a pickup.   Visit our web site to sign up.

 

   

Adventures in Apalachicola Valley Archaeology, by Dr. Nancy White

December 8, 2012 at 7 p.m.  $5.

Dr. White will chronicle 12,000 years of human habitation in this region -- from native fishers, hunters, and farmers of different time periods through the first Old World intruders and early American traders and settlers. White will show where they lived and died, and how they used the lands and waters we now inhabit and enjoy. She will also describe the sometimes exciting processes of archaeological discovery in the field and lab.  White earned a Ph. D. at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and is a professor of anthropology at the University of South Florida in Tampa and Registered Professional Archaeologist. Her books include Grit-Tempered: Early Women Archaeologists in the Southeastern United States, Gulf Coast Archaeology, Archaeology for Dummies, and Late Prehistoric Florida. She has done fieldwork across the U.S. and in France and Mexico, and taught at universities in Italy and East Malaysia (Borneo). For over 20 years she has studied the Apalachicola-Lower Chattahoochee valley region of northwest Florida/south Georgia/south Alabama.  The presentation will be followed by a reception.

  

 

Build a Boat!

December 28, 2012   

 

The Six Hour Canoe will be a good family boat building project which constructs a quality wooden canoe from two 4 x 8 sheets of marine plywood and a few pieces of dimensional lumber and, with epoxy glued seams, is watertight when finished.  When completed, the canoe is 15' 3" in length with a 31 " beam. It can be paddled with kayak or canoe paddles.  Inexpensive to build using ordinary tools and materials, the canoe gives everybody access to boat building and a boat. The course runs two days with an optional day of painting on the third day.  The AMM will provide all of the materials and instructors to keep you and your friends and family on the right course.  We will build up to four boats in a weekend and group size is limited to four.  The cost is $200 per group and you take the boat home with you on your car top or in the back of a pickup.   Visit our web site to sign up.

 

 

Also coming up...

 

The Corner of Our Country, by Homer Hirt

January 12, 2013

  

The Dog Island Shipwreck Survey, by Dr. Chuck Meide 

February 9, 2013  

  

Apalachicola in the Civil War, by Ken Johnston, Executive Director of the Civil War Naval Museum

May 17, 2013

 

  


ViewFromTheBowView from the Bow
by George Kirvin Floyd
 

Update on the Paddle wheeler Jean Mary

Work began in earnest during the week of September 10 with a crew of eight gathering at the St. John's Boatyard on the north side of the St. John's river, about three miles from the Atlantic.  The historic seaport of Mayport lies just east of downtown Jacksonville and is an area rich in maritime history.  First inhabited by Timucuan Indians, the area was settled by the French in 1562.  Immigrants from Portugal and the island of Minorca were also early settlers.  All of these groups thrived due to their historic ties to the sea and the area's bountiful supplies of fish. In more current times, it has become a major industrial seaport, housing a U.S. Navy Base, many ship yards, and  a broad variety of businesses focused on support of commercial marine operations.  As we learn more, we are coming to appreciate how fortunate we are to have our Jean Mary restoration efforts taking place where they are.  The good people at the boatyard continue to be very supportive of the Jean Mary restoration, and are always helpful with suggestions and guidance on topics ranging from materials acquisition to structural rejuvenation and fabrication.  Bronson Lamb is often aboard with ever-growing enthusiasm and believes that the Jean Mary talks to him. 

 

During the first days we focused on getting all of the cabins livable, as most of the crew is living aboard while the restoration efforts are underway.  We have electrical, air conditioning and hot and cold running water working.  We also got the galley operational so we can prepare three daily meals and the dining room set up.  The library / lounge is being used as the project management office. 

 

As the first week progressed, we transitioned from basic accommodations to repairing the roof at the "Texas Deck" and beginning a mapping and testing of the primary electrical wiring.  We brought in a large metal storage container to be used as our shop, a cradle lift and demolition bin, and made arrangements for delivery of sandblasting and welding equipment.  We began renovation on the aft master stateroom by removing all ceiling and wall board to recover from the water damage caused by roof failures at the Texas deck.

 

  

See photo of the crew below, at the planning table with the ship drawings in the Jean Mary library.  Following are the list of those helping with the first week of work.

 

 

 First row from left to right:

  1. Mike Anderson - AMM crew working on general carpentry and crew chef.
  2. George Floyd - Working on planning and documentation and pitching in on Texas deck refurbishment.
  3. Ken Klein - AMM volunteer working on electrical and systems.
  4. Daniel Stewart - AMM Operations Manager coordinating crew activities and supplier deliveries.

Second row from left to right:

 

5.  Mark Alverson - AMM volunteer working on electrical and systems.

6.  Ron Metz - AMM crew working on general carpentry

7.  Chris Richards - AMM crew working on steel refurbishment with torch and rod.

8.  Mike Bodiford - AMM crew working on general carpentry.

 

 Update on our flagship vessel Heritage 

 

As we reported during our August newsletter, when the category two winds from the eye of hurricane Isaac were forecast to bear down on Apalachicola, we made a hasty trip to Carrabelle for haul out to the "hill."  Even though the storm was four days out, all of the "jack stands" at the dry dock had already been allocated to other boats by the time Heritage made it into port.  Fortunately, Bronson Lamb from the St. John's Boatyard (where the Jean Mary is undergoing repairs) came to the aid of the Maritime Museum yet again.  Since the storm posed no threat to Jacksonville, Bronson loaned six large stands to be used on Heritage to ride out the storm.  

 

With the winds building and a the tempest on our tail, the Heritage arrived into Carrabelle late in the day with a hard rising tide and a 7 knot cross current, with which we contended on several "practice runs" before landing into the travel lift basin with only abrasions on the cap rails from the lines used to hold her fast during entry.  Shortly afterwards, she was in her land berth behind the maintenance building with us scrambling to lash down spars and remove rigging in the face of the advancing storm.  The crew of the Dockside Marina were prompt and meticulous in their tasks as they were handling an onslaught of vessels of all types seeking to escape the rising tides and howling winds.

 

We were relieved to see the storm pass to the west.  Many were forced to leave due to mandatory evacuation orders proclaimed for the barrier islands and low-lying lands.  At least we could sleep easy without enduring the nightmare scenario of riding out such a storm at the docks or anchored upriver.  With her 65' spruce mast, Heritage is not able to avail of the protected upriver creeks such as Saul's, since the canopy of nearby trees will not allow her to enter the protected reaches of narrow deep water.

 

 

After calm waters and weather returned, we postponed our departure to Jacksonville for a week which allowed 

a scrape, sand and application of nine fresh gallons of blue ablative bottom paint.  The red boot stripe and white topsides were refreshed with fresh paint and polished out.  With new zincs, a bilge wash out, and other annual service completed, we were ready to splash in with the forecast of an approaching easterly blow.  A group of eight salty volunteers came together at 7 a.m. in the AMM parking lot and departed to Carrabelle to make the day-long sail with force 5 winds building.  For two hours after arriving, the launch process progressed until we were finally in the water and underway by around 10 a.m.  As we entered Apalachee Bay, we came into the wind and let fly all of our canvas, mizzen, main and jib, with waves and spray raking across the bow among lunging waves and plunging bow.  Exhilarating is the word which best describes the experience.

 

Coming about and  easing the sheets into a broad reach we began to run with the wind over our shoulder to our home port.  The captains and volunteers of the AMM took turns at the tiller in making the four hour return into Apalachicola, arriving at 2 p.m.  The waves were falling away in most of our run, as Heritage sprinted the entire run through bay, often exceeding 9 knots.  Rides such as this one, among strong, steady winds with a hint of the cooling seasons, are the sailing trips that help us endure the occasional rain soaked or wave sloshed adventures that invariably come with anyone regularly venturing out onto the bays and waters.  Coming safely into the dock with a proven, capable, and reliable crew, we were all thankful to have written the last lines of our encounter with Issac.  Thankful and hopeful that the angels that guide our way will continue their presence.

 

In the coming weeks, the updated awning system will be refitted which provides access to the mats and a gudgeon and pintle style connection that secures the canvas booms to the masts, with the goal being to reduce rainwaters on deck, the chief cause of deck rot.  We will be doing varnish work on the masts and all topsides with a renewal of the traditional winding paint mix of pine tar, Japan Drier and black paint, all equal parts.  The first ingredient being derived from the Herty cups at the base of pine trees such as was the subject of Barbara Hine's Naval Stores lecture just a few weeks ago.  Updated charts on the navigation system, chasing down a few electrical chores, and implementation of a new set of foredeck auxiliary lighting will have Heritage ready for a fall and winter sailing schedule.  

 

We hope the weather will allow a higher portion of blue skies in the coming months that will allow us to resume a more reliable schedule.  We will be hosting some special event sails and fundraising raffles.  

 

 

 
View from the Stern: Sea Shanties as a Portal into Maritime History
Montezuma

 

We were contacted several weeks ago by a member of a sea shanty singing group in St. Petersburg who was researching Florida's maritime history and the music sung and played by sailors and dock workers.  After exchanging several emails, Fred Seidl of the St. Pete Shanties paid a visit to the Apalachicola Maritime Museum and met with Research and Education Director Augusta West.  Our organizations share a common goal of furthering research and educating the public on maritime heritage.  
 
A former college dean, Fred takes an academic approach to his research.  The group's performances weave together history, music, entertainment, and storytelling. We were so impressed with the historical context that is integrated into the St. Pete Shanties' performances that we hope to host the group here in Apalachicola next year.  
 
They are currently working on a program they intend to perform in Sarasota in November in which Apalachicola figures predominately.  Through music, the program traces the movements of the Montezuma, of the Black Ball line, the first shipping company to schedule trips, twice a month, across the Atlantic.  The Montezuma is among the larger ships of the Black Ball's fleet and was built in 1849 by William H.  Webb's yard in New York.  She was a friend of the "Cotton Triangle" which brought immigrants to New York, implements, salt and hardware to The Gulf Coast of Florida,  and cotton to Europe, Liverpool and LaHavre.  The Montezuma was known to visit Apalachicola.
 
Over the coming months, we will collaborate on research on Florida's sea music, using ship's logs, interviews, and other sources, to uncover more shanties of significance to the state's maritime history.  As Fred points out, the invention of the radio marked the end of sea shanties as part of the fabric of daily life for those working on boats and docks on Florida's waterways.  Men no longer needed to sing their own work songs to pass the time, and the art of shanty singing began sinking into the murky depths of history.  Shanty singers and popular sea music festivals in places such as Mystic Seaport in Connecticut help keep the tradition alive.  We are fortunate to have the St. Pete Shanties as a resource on this aspect of maritime history.  If you have any information to contribute to the project, please send us an email.
 
The following was written by Fred Seidl of the St. Pete Shanties.
 
A Quest for Sea Music

Fred Seidl

Despite having been told that there are no shanties that come from Florida, we have been able to locate a number of songs, primarily by searching the Folklife archives of the Smithsonian both directly and those at the State Archives.  These include "Roll the Woodpile Down," "Belemina" (Key West), "Johnson Girls " (Jacksonville), "Way Down in Dixie," (St. John's River), "Jump Isabel, Glide Water," (Amelia Island), "Johnny Come down to Hilo," (probably Mobile Bay) "Roll the Old Chariot along" (originally a spiritual) are among these. 

 

There is a close connection between the songs sung by stevedores and sailors.  According to Frank (Jolly Sailors Bold, 2010), "The florescence of sailor' shanties in the nineteenth century is closely tied to the influence of black stevedores in Southern cotton ports, with whom deepwater sailors come into increasingly frequent contact in the expansionary post-Napoleonic era."  Big changes happened to shanty singing on the Florida Panhandle as sailors from Europe and New England came across sailors and dock workers steeped in African-American spirituals and work songs.  This cultural synthesis brought together African-American harmonies and improvisation with Northern unison- sung and leader-led work songs.  Stan Hugel, among the greatest of the shanty collectors, himself a shantyman, called Mobile Bay "the great shanty mart."  Since Apalachicola was the third largest cotton port in 1850, and major shipping companies (i.e. The Black Ball line) visited Apalachicola regularly in the "cotton triangle" voyages to Europe, it figures that this cultural synthesis would be very much a local phenomenon.  We know this to be both the time and place that harmonies and improvisation were added to shanty singing.  Very few of the cotton-steeving songs survive according to Frank. Many have "morphed" and gone to sea sung by both black and white sailors.  (About 20 percent of the crews of commercial sailing vessels in the 19th century were of African diaspora.)

 

There are two shanties that have traveled the world from their birthplace on the Florida panhandle.  The first is a river shanty "Roll the Woodpile Down" which we think comes from Apalachicola where there was a large supply of cypress. Its reference to the "Georgia line" seems to indicate the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River system, down which large quantities of lumber were shipped to the gulf.  The second song, "We'll Roll the Old Chariot Along" is also from the panhandle, and is clearly connected to the spiritual tradition.   It's probably safe to say that any song with the word "chariot" in it is derived from the spiritual tradition.   Both are "line shanties," songs sung to time pulling on lines that run horizontal to the deck, and occasionally as halyard shanties, sung to raise sails.  These songs are in the standard repertoire of many, many shanty singing groups.  

 

Ultimately, I am looking for additional material that the St. Pete Shanties can perform with the goal of sensitizing Florida audiences to Florida's maritime history.  Since Apalachicola was a world port, even the standard repertoire of New England-English shanties could be justified as material that was used here, but hopefully we can find more locally produced or impacted dock-worker and sailor songs. 

 

For our quest for sea music, we'll need to follow down all the leads we can generate.  Since the period we are talking about was abruptly interrupted by the Civil War, our task is difficult.  It is likely that we will find materials that were changed and went to sea and that songs originating in Apalachicola are in Massachusetts.  In addition to document analysis, local historians, cultural anthropologists, elderly black pastors, people whose families have lived by the docks for generations, etc. might all be good sources.  One really informed person could make all the difference.  

 

At the Helm: Captain Peter Burgher   

We'd like to extend a warm "welcome back!" to Pete and Elinor Burgher, after a few months away at their northern home.  USCG Master Captain Peter Burgher has returned to the museum for a third season at the helm of the Starfish Enterprise.  He has captained many trips aboard the Starfish, and enjoys the interaction with passengers seeking a unique experience on our beautiful and historic waters.  His meticulous care in maintenance of the vessels and commitment to providing safe, educational, and enjoyable tours are commendable.  We are very fortunate to have the Burghers as part of the museum family.

 

Pete is a retired partner from the international accounting firm of Arthur Young and is a consultant on management affairs and an expert witness. His experience as a mariner goes back to his childhood in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where he learned to sail on his grandfather's Herreshoff starting at the age of 8. He was soon sailing around Buzzard's Bay and the Elizabethan Islands, crewing, and racing.  Later, he shared his love of the water with his wife Elinor and children. The family lived in Boston and then Captiva Island, where they spent time together sailing and exploring the coastline.  Although they also have a house in Michigan, where they like to enjoy the snow, the couple made Indian Pass their home in 2000.  

 

Also a pilot, Pete frequents the skies above Gulf and Franklin counties, and is an avid aerial photographer.  His gorgeous collection of Forgotten Coast aerial photos, Patterns in the Water, will soon be published in both book and calendar format, and will be available in our gift shop.

 

To book an estuary cruise, working waterfront tour, or excursion to St. Vincent or Little St. George Island with Captain Burgher, give us a call at 850-653-2500 or click here

   
Volunteer Spotlight: Robin Rickel Vroegop

  

Many of you may already know Robin though her community involvement.  She created The Half Shell, "a community web forum for engaging fans of our Apalachicola Bay and its resources," which monitors issues and local events that impact the bay, and disseminates information through videos on The Half Shell YouTube channelHer ultimate goal is to convey a sense of place to web visitors of the Forgotten Coast, and to compile a lasting archive of our culturally and ecologically rich community for future generations.  Robin video-tapes many of our events, lectures, sail trips, and wooden boat school projects.  Working in consultation with Museum staff, she is planning to create educational video content on a variety of topics for Museum visitors and students.

 

Along with her Florida Master Naturalist and Florida Green Guide certifications, her in-depth knowledge of St. Vincent Island is also an asset, as we are now running educational excursions to this National Wildlife Refuge.  We provide briefings on the island's history and wildlife aboard the Starfish Enterprise, and when we arrive at the island, guests are able to explore the beaches with a greater understanding of how truly unique the refuge is. 

 

Robin has lived in Apalachicola since 1994. She has a son, Michael, 25, and a husband of 26 years, Mike, who had been unfailingly supportive of her many volunteer activities over the years.  In fact, as Mike prepares to retire later this month, he will be teaming up with Robin in his volunteer efforts for AMM, where he has already been assisting in the Wooden Boat Shop and teaching knot tying classes.

 

"Franklin County has an abundance of highly-accessible, inspiring, natural landscapes and world class biodiversity, as well as an endlessly fascinating cultural history.  I want to help conserve and honor both of those heritages.  Volunteering at AMM allows me to put to use all my past experiences and interests, and to share a bold vision for our future with other like-minded people."

Robin in the Red Wolf Acclimation Pen at the St. Vincent Island National Wildlife Refuge, while volunteering with the Red Wolf breeding program. Photo by Earl Orf.

 

Robin also volunteers at Franklin's Promise, a community coalition of non-profit groups, and at events such as the National Estuarine Research Reserve's "Estuary Day."  Other projects include working to get "Great Florida Birding Trail" designation on the River Ramble Trail and Boardwalk, located near the Scipio Creek Boat Basin in Apalachicola.

 

 Robin's dedication, positive energy and enthusiasm make her a joy to work with.  We are fortunate to have the Vroegops as part of our crew.  

 

Click here to check out "The Half Shell Web Forum" videos on YouTube, including many created for AMM.  

 

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please email us for more information.

 

    


 

Franklin County Seafood Workers Association Sounds the Alarm on Depleted Apalachicola Bay Oyster Beds: 

County Commissioners Declare a State of Emergency

by Robin Rickel Vroegop

 

Oyster Harvester and Franklin Co. Seafood Workers Assoc. President Shannon Hartsfield (left) with 

Oyster Harvester and Franklin County Commissioner Bevin Putnal (right).


At the September 4th meeting of Franklin County Board of Commissioners, Shannon Hartsfield, President of the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association, addressed the Commission, alerting them of the extremely poor harvesting potential of the oyster beds in Apalachicola Bay.  Many of the over 120 oyster harvesters in attendance, and at least one Commissioner, recounted similar assessments of the Winter beds, which had opened just four days prior, on September 1st.   Some of Franklin County's most respected Bay workers cited that the oyster bars were producing legal-sized oysters at levels of one third to one half the production of last Fall's opening day catch.  There was widespread concern voiced about the lack of harvestable oysters on the easternmost reefs after this summer's tropical storms, and also that, for unknown reasons, there seemed to be little oyster spat recruitment on the oysters that were found. (See more information regarding the life cycle of the eastern oyster here).

 

After more than an hour of testimonials from the public, the Commission voted unanimously to issue a  State of Emergency Declaration for Franklin County, due to the economic impact of the situation concerning Apalachicola Bay.  In addition, the Board called for an Emergency Meeting to be held on the evening of September 6th, to hear reports about the situation from resource managers and state officials, as well as to provide additional opportunity for comment from seafood business owners and the general public.  While there was no consensus gained regarding what might be the cause of the sudden harvest "depletion event", as it was termed by a State official from the Department of Agriculture, increased salinity from lack of freshwater flows, tropical storm damage, over-harvest, and even latent pollutants from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, were raised as possibilities. 

 

One thing on which everyone could agree was that in order to avert a cascade of adverse economic impacts to the estimated 2500 Franklin County residents whose livelihoods depend upon the Bay, interim employment and other types of assistance would need to be provided.  Commissioner Bevin Putnal, an oysterman himself, and a champion for the Apalachicola Bay harvesting community during his twenty-four year tenure on the Board, summed it up this way: 

 

"What we need to do is contact our legislators, and apply for emergency funds, just like the farmers are getting [for drought relief] and I really think that's our only hope, to get some funds from them and start planting and shelling . . . because this is going to be a long term thing.  I look for it to be probably two to three years before the Bay will come back, but if we can put some seed, along with the shells, as we work, with emergency funds . . . we can get these people through these hard times."

 

For more information, contact Jen Millender with the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association at (850) 597-0787.

 

 

   

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