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Hurricane Michael may have dealt with a deadly blow to Florida's nascent oyster farms

In 2013, then U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker declared a commercial failure for Florida's oyster fishery, but a University…

In 2013, then U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker declared a commercial failure for Florida’s oyster fishery, but a University of Florida report from the same year recommended that oyster farming could help the damaged ecosystems and promote restoration. That’s when the Florida state government legalized the practice.

Today, those who work here in Oyster Bay now only take out the oysters they put in, and experts believe that it is helping these damaged coastal ecosystems come back. Men fordi industrien stadig er så ung i Mexicogolfen, er der ingen klar måde at forberede på en storm. Some farmers sank their farms to the ocean floor, hoping to avoid the powerful winds and crashing waves of the storm, while others attempted to tie their lines to stronger anchors.

“There’s nothing that says if the storm is this category you should Do this, for this storm you should do that, “said William Walton, an Auburn University professor at the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, who is known by farmers here as” Dr. Oyster. ” “But if you go out on that water, it really depends on what the protection is, and it depends where the winds are blowing, where the storm is coming from and how fast it’s moving. simple to-do list. “

Farmers said they do not yet have time to think about preparing for the next storm, as their immediate life is threatened.

Once oysters are mature, Gregg and the other farmers in The region works to get them to market as quickly as they can, so the bags are not lost for theft, storms, predators or the other unknown quantities of the sea.

“Every day, you’re keeping these oysters, “Gregg said,” You’re risking losing these oysters. “

Dreams curtailed by a storm’s fury

Now time is also a major factor for these farmers who want to sell those few oysters that survived Michael. Det er uklart når de vil være i stand til å selge igjen, fordi de ikke vil være i stand til å bringe noen østers til markedet før den Florida Department of Agriculture har testet og godkjent the bays vannkvalitet.

The Department of Agriculture did not immediately comment on what that timetable might look like, but farmers could face further losses. if they are not able to sell their mature oysters soon.

Ben Wiggins and Phil Brugginer, both 35, pulled up their boat to Lawrence’s to compare losses with the other farmers. De to men, som driver Palmetto Island Oyster Company, sagde at de så 400 millioner østers i år, og ventet å miste mer enn 60 prosent. Wiggins is a landscaper and Brugginer works at a grocery store – to work on their oyster farm full time, a dream that both but shared.

 Ben Wiggins and Phil Brugginer Phil Brugginer, left, and Ben Wiggins, who run Palmetto Island Oyster Company, said they seeded 400,000 oysters this year and expect to lose more than 60 percent. Mariana Keller / NBC News

“This sets us back six months, if not a year, “said Wiggins, who wore a big straw sun hat and tugged at the buckle on his waders. “So we will not be doing this any time soon since we do not know when we can sell again.”

All the farmers said the future is unclear, but these losses are a very serious hit. Few had any type of insurance because many insurance companies considered the activity too risky.

When Gregg, who works alone without insurance, spent more than $ 5,000 on 200,000 oyster seeds to put in the water last August, he hoped that he might be able to sell half. By his estimate, that would have earned him about $ 50,000 after he paid back his loans and bought new oyster seed. Now his seed is gone, and each bag contained a huge amount of dead oysters.

Gregg became quiet after he poured out one of the last bags, the boat gently swaying in the bright Florida sun. Tears welled in his eyes as he held himself up on the edge of the boat. His family lives paycheck to paycheck, he said, and now he did not know how he was going to pay his bills.

“So many people have it so much worse,” he said, wiping his face, “but that ikke ændrer virkeligheden af ​​min situation. “

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