Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Blog Apalachicola Bay Oyster Harvesters Cooling Holding Proposal

apalachicola bay oysterman cooling holding proposalApalachicola Bay Oyster Harvesters Cooling Holding Proposal

A MODEL OF CULTURAL AND ECONOMIC AID

The following proposal has a clear goal and mission in it’s
execution.

1) To develop a model program to aid Oyster Harvesters to
extend their harvesting hours by having shoreline access to
quickly and efficiently cool their product to FDA standards
and time limits by intermediate holding and cooling. This
intermediate shoreline holding and cooling will extend the
harvesters ability to increase harvesting hours and hold
their product in safety standard conditions while being
able to continue harvesting.

2) Provide a central place for gatherings, meetings, or other
activities in an atmosphere open and geared to the unique
culture and heritage of the Oystering Community. To
provide a place where the culture and heritage of the
Oystering Community can be displayed and shared as a
unique industry vital to the community and economy.

3) While providing a greater sense of identity and place
promoting a greater influence over the marketing of their
product and control of product demand and supply. To this
end exploring the possibilities of Open Market and public
sales.

1. The economic struggles of Oysterman
2. The History of Sportsman’s Lodge and Marina as
historically central to the Oyster Industry
3. Proposal of a model Cultural and Economic Aid
To the Eastpoint Oystering Community

THE ECONOMIC STRUGGLES OF OYSTERMAN

Currently 1.6 million BP dollars are being spent on the Franklin
County, “We’re Salty” campaign to attract tourist. Millions have
been spent to assure Florida and the Country our waters are clean
and our Seafood is safe. Currently Business Revitalization and the
restoration of resources is a main priority. Environmental standards
are being rewritten to aid those who would add to jobs and tourism.

The Oyster tongers are a cultural icon in Florida’s maritime
history and perhaps one of the most neglected industries. They are an
independent loosely organized business with work values and ethics
passed down from generations. The workers who harvest
Apalachicola oysters are a unique culture producing 90 percent of
Florida’s oysters and 10 percent nationally. The monetary value
produced equals any large industry in the State of Florida. Yet there
is no corporate structure or support system for employees.

Oysterman have no guaranteed pay check, they have no insurance
program for them or their family. The oysterman has no sick leave
pay or retirement benefits. Yet, when local politics speaks of the
monetary value of that industry it is 20 million plus per year and
thousands of dollars per day. Out of that thousands of dollars the
normal oysterman who fully supply’s all his own resources such as
boat, motor, fuel, and tongs does well to profit 100 dollars per day
after expenses. Currently, with the FDA regulations and the
sometimes unscrupulous control of seafood processors claiming a
lack of orders harvesting is limited sometimes to two days a week.
Seafood Processors have long used the supply and demand of orders
to control the market price given to the Oysterman.

The extreme challenges of the Oystering culture are more
rigorous than any occupation in the Apalachicola Bay seafood
industry. Besides personal economic struggles the list of threats and
challenges to both their culture and production are tremendous. Their
harvest and livelihood are subject to the unpredictability of weather
which can fully destroy their ability to harvest. Such was the case
during the Kate and Elena event of 1985. Economically it took years
to bring back oyster beds the storms destroyed. Catastrophic storms,
year long droughts, and changes in water flow are an ever present
uncertainty. The Oyster Industry faces the effects of water pollution,
population growth, and it’s outcome of condominiums, gated
communities, retail shopping centers, and a declining interest in the
hard work of oystering as a livelihood. Yet for all this there is no
concerted effort by any organization of County, State, or Nation to
support or preserve this unique culture and multi-million dollar
industry.

The normal oysterman is up at daybreak and stands in harsh heat
or cold for hours doing pure muscular labor. They lift and handle
hundreds of pounds of oysters manually into their small boats.
Raking five pounds at a time from the Bay floor with 10 ft oyster
tongs they bring the oysters to a culling board where they sort and
handle every oyster. They then bag them into 60 to 100 pound bags
and load them off the boat and then have to unload them at the
processing house. With all their expense of boat, motor, fuel, tongs,
boots, culling irons and hard labor they receive at most 15 to 18
dollars per 60 pound bag.

IS IT WORTH THE STATE’S EFFORT TO SUSTAIN AND
SUPPORT THIS CULTURE AND INDUSTRY?

 
With all these personal challenges the U. S. Department of
Agriculture considers raw oysters a challenge to Public Health
because raw oysters can convey bacterial disease to consumers. The
State regulation of this cultural industry is the greatest current threat
to sustaining the working tradition of Eastpoint and Apalachicola
oyster workers. These regulations impact the whole economy of
Eastpoint where 90 percent of the community is dependent on the
health of the Bay and industry. These regulations affect families and
children directly in their ability to sustain themselves. But again
there has been no effort of DCA or Department of Families and
Children to compensate for the loss these regulations cause.

Families, shuckers, packers, distributors, and business
representatives are all adversely impacted. But none are more
impacted than those who are actually doing the labor and producing
the product. The impact to the families brings to question the simple
ability to pay rent, electric, and feed their children. That imposed by
the State should also be in some way compensated by the State in
support of both culture and industry. FDA, the Department of
Agriculture and Aquaculture, and the Fish and Wildlife Commission
all impose and enforce these regulations for the health and wellbeing
of society. Unfortunately the health and well- being of the
producer is being by-passed.

In 2010 the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disrupted the industry in
every way. But having injured the livelihood of oysterman they
realized their responsibility for compensation.Though compensation
was made by BP the compensation did not equal the disruption. Two
events scarred the industry: The opening of beds to harvest before oil
reached the Bay and the subsequent pay-offs which motivated
oysterman not to harvest. The impact was an economic outfall which
was a short-lived boom of instant cash. But now that boom has
turned to bust as the FDA has imposed new cooling rules for oyster
harvesting. Coupled with a first time outbreak of Cholera in April
and May of this year the Oystering community is now in a recession
not of their own making. Rent, electric, groceries, and the expenses
such as 300 dollar tongs are needs that are now hard to meet. With
all the other challenges and now regulations limiting ability to
harvest the agency which should support and sustain the industry
may deal a death blow if mediation does not occur.

Vibrio vulnificus can be life-threatening to people with serious
underlying health problems such as liver disease, diabetes, cancer, or
immune disorders. Florida’s proposed rules, which require oysters be
delivered to dealers no later than 1 p.m. in April, May, October and
November; noon in June and September; and 11 a.m. in July and
August, hasdrawn scattered criticism from harvesters. Certified seafood dealers
would also be impacted by the new rules, which require them to
place harvested oysters in refrigerated storage by 2 p.m. in April,
May, October and November; by 1 p.m. in June and September; and
by noon in July and August.

The Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference plan calls for states
whose waters have been confirmed as the original source of oysters
associated with two or more Vibrio vulnificus illnesses to require
that oysters be refrigerated within a specified time after harvest to
slow the bacterium’s growth. The higher the water temperature, the
sooner the oysters would have to be refrigerated.

For example, oysters taken from an affected site during a month
with an average monthly maximum water temperature of more than
84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) would have to be chilled
within six hours of harvesting. Oysters from cooler waters could be
kept unchilled correspondingly longer. The times between harvest
and cooling result from FDA research on how rapidly Vibrio
vulnificus multiplies in unrefrigerated oysters after harvest.
Currently this limits the time of potential harvesting to five hours
per day from start to finish. The economic impact on the individual
oysterman amounts to thousands of dollars of lost income. It should
be understood that the income of the normal oysterman is marginal
even in the best of times. This added burden creates a near poverty
situation. Also the exact effectiveness of this plan for the reduction
of Vibrio bacteria has not been established in practice but only in
theory. The proposed rules could contribute to the vibrio problem,
since oystermen, returning at basically the same hour of the day will
create long waiting lines that will increase the time to unloading. So,
even if the Oyster Harvesters overcome the economic hardship of
less harvesting hours it may be found the measure as proposed will
not be effective. No sound solution has to date been forwarded by
anyone that is viable and beneficial to either aid or compensate the
individual oysterman.

THE HISTORY OF THE SPORTSMAN’S LODGE PROPERTY
AS CENTRAL TO THE OYSTER INDUSTRY.

 
Since the turn of the century oysters have compromised the
principal Industry of Franklin County. Records dating back to 1907
show that the Sportsman’s Lodge and Marina property have always
been central to the Seafood Industry in Franklin County. Many
original families owned the property at one time or another and sold
it as economics dictated. The Dodds, Hoffmans, and Vroomans were
among early original owners. In 1934 a Grant of Riparian Priviledge
was given to the State of Florida by the owners so they could remove
dredge and fill for the new Apalachicola Bridge. The property
changed ownership seven times from 1907 to 1944. Another note of
interest is that on December 9th 1960 the owners granted a Right of
Way in Perpetuity to Franklin County. This established the
Sportsman’s Lodge and Marina as a refuge for use of the public in
times of crisis and emergency and mentions boat basin facilities and
any docking facilities connected to the property.

Robert D. and Edda Allen received the property by deed in 1974.
The property which had been purchased by a religious group from
New york had fell into a State of disrepair. The Allens in true pioneer
spirit began to take the various structures and rebuild them into a
viable business. Their primary goal was to serve the fishing
community and to have a place anyone could call “home.” The
Allen’s worked with the State Agencies, local County Commission
and Health Department in permitting and building. Locals as well as
people from every nation were attracted to the Lodge. Mr. Allen
always made sure any Oysterman or fisherman had access via Indian
Creek to the Bay. After 11 years hard work disaster struck from two
hurricane events, “Kate and Elena.” Not only was the Lodge and
Marina destroyed but the whole economy and especially the Oyster
Industry was damaged to such extent speculation was it could not be
rebuilt.

The work the Allen’s did during that time is best expressed in a
letter of commendation given the Allen’s from the Franklin County
Seafood Workers.

Instead of immediately rebuilding their own ruins in 1985 the
Allen’s reached out to the community at large and provided their
land and energy to aid and support the Oyster Industry. But slowly
they did rebuild and again with the community and it’s primary
industry in mind. Mr. Allen in the late 80′s began rebuilding a
structure with a fishing dock with his daughter’s wedding in mind.

Acquiring building permits from the County he began to renovate
the structure. By the year 2000 he determined it would make a great
place for local people to come and meet. Also many Oyster workers
who did not have the means for a large wedding were given the
wedding of a lifetime in the restaurant building. To farther provide
public service and local employment Mr. Allen opened a working
State Permitted and State approved Restaurant. It was made clear it
was a place Oysterman were welcomed. They were given discounts
and full plates. Also the Franklin County Seafood Workers held their
monthly meetings there.

Whether by jealousy or politics in 2002 a barrage of attacks
began against the building. It began with allegations of illegal water
and sewer connections and ended with a “Consent Order” from DEP
that basically meant tearing down the structure. Mr. Allen had no
choice but to close the building to the public. Although thousands of
dollars were spent in defense and every agency petitioned it seemed
no defense was acceptable.

During the months when the oyster “summer bars” are opened
the lodge is the closest launching place on the Bay. A large portion of
the Oysterman launch and unload in the Indian Creek channel. This
building and land with it’s heritage of support of the industry is an
ideal location to begin to revitalize and restore the largest and oldest
industry in Franklin County.

 
PROPOSAL FOR A MODEL OF CULTURAL AND ECONOMIC
AID TO THE EASTPOINT OYSTERING COMMUNITY

As the Oystering Community of Eastpoint has been economically
challenged, by storms, oil spills and multiple regulations we propose
to offer aid in the form of an intermediate cooling and holding
facility. The White Eagle Restaurant building is centrally located
where Oysterman launch and unload for summer bar harvesting and
already is equipped with a walk-in cooling unit. Oyster harvesters
can cool their product to FDA standards and then resume harvesting.
This will assure the fastest possible time from harvest to cooling as
the product will only be delivered to the shoreline and immediately
stored and held at FDA standard temperatures. This will also relieve
to a degree the amount of product delivered at any one time to the
processing houses and reduce waiting time for delivery.

As the Oystering Community of Eastpoint has been culturally
neglected as a main part of the heritage of Franklin County and the
State of Florida. We propose the White Eagle Restaurant Building be
dedicated as a central gathering place for any events desired and
agreed on by the Franklin County Seafood Workers. Equally we
propose this building be dedicated to the education of the public as
to the importance and ways of the unique Oystering Culture. We
believe this can be achieved through displays to locals and tourist of
Oyster Heritage and the it’s importance to the economy. Also
educational speakers from different areas of Government and
Science will have ample space and resources to share their
knowledge of Oystering Culture.

As the Oystering Community of Eastpoint has been loosely
organized and is an independent business we propose that focus be
given to the past, present and future state of the industry. We believe
this can be accomplished with mediation and improved
communication with State and Federal agencies. We propose the
goal of developing guidelines over time where the everyday Oyster
harvester has some autonomous control and voice in both supply and
demand. We believe these aims and goals are vital to the support and
continued vitality of an important industry. Therefore we ask the aid
and assistance of all State Agencies and all who desire to support the
oldest and largest industry in Franklin County. The Allen family and
Sportsman’s Lodge Motel and Marina have dedicated nearly 4
decades to the economy and well being of this area. It is their desire
to do all that is possible to aid and support their community and the
Oyster Industry of Eastpoint.

source: Apalachicola Bay Oyster Harvesters Cooling Holding Proposal

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3 Responses to Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Blog Apalachicola Bay Oyster Harvesters Cooling Holding Proposal

  1. michael says:

    i live in tennessee and my dream has always been to be an oysterman.i owns 2 ready and capable boats and a 15′ camper. i would love to get out off the rat race of nashville. im a mechanical contractor (plumbing ,heating ,cooling,a/c ,boilers chillers,welder, backflow pervention etc.) i work long hours in all environments (heat cold wet ) i would love some info on permits ,lics etc. i work 365 days a year as many hours as required. everyone asked me my whole live what i wanted to do or be, some people want to be docs some lawyers,police,fireman,etc..i love the water working hard, being on my boat. i’m not looking to make millons, just as long as i can get buy, and truly enjoy what im doing please contact me @ michael.ambrogi@yahoo.com thank you

  2. how to says:

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  3. updates says:

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