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Oystermen struggle to survive amid Florida, Georgia water battle

Video credit: Reuters Studio
Published on February 21, 2020 - Duration: 02:28s

Oystermen struggle to survive amid Florida, Georgia water battle

The future of oystermen in Florida’s Apalachicola Bay may be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to rule later this year on a seven-year-long legal battle between Florida and Georgia.

Yahaira Jacquez reports.

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Oystermen struggle to survive amid Florida, Georgia water battle

Michael Dasher comes from a long line of oystermen and his son, nicknamed "Little Mike," is now following in his footsteps, gathering oysters in Florida's Apalachicola Bay.

A way of life that oystermen say is dying.

Last year, they hauled in 16,000 pounds of oysters worth $130,000, according to state figures.

A fraction of the 3 million pounds caught in 2012 worth nearly $9 million dollars.

That has left the 53-year-old worried that his son may be the last of five generations of Dashers who made their living on the bay.

Now, their future may hinge on a decision by the Supreme Court, which is expected to rule later this year on a seven-year-long legal battle between Florida and Georgia.

(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) OYSTERMAN, MICHAEL DASHER SENIOR, SAYING: "This is our last day probably for two weeks.

They letting all the water come down and the bay closes at sunset." Florida accuses Georgia of drawing too much water from the rivers that feed the bay, causing its salinity to rise and driving down the oyster population.

Georgia rejects that claim, saying that what has really hurt the oyster population is a surge of over-harvesting.

The current state of play involves a swelling Atlanta - as well as Georgia's peanut and cotton farms - all drawing from the same fresh water sources that flow to the Apalachicola Bay.

There, residents like Lynn Martina - who have long relied on the water to support their sources of income - have had to adapt.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) OWNER OF LYNN'S QUALITY OYSTERS, LYNN MARTINA, SAYING: "When I couldn't get enough oysters to fill my trucks I knew I had to make a decision...We went from selling them from the tractor trailer load to by the dozen so that tells you what kind of decline the seafood industry is in or the oyster business." But those in Apalachicola Bay have a reason to be worried.

The U.S. Circuit Judge a state water rights expert who was named a "special master" in the case, has recommended that the court side with Georgia.

But the court can ignore his recommendation, if it's swayed by Florida's arguments.

Something the Dashers and the dozen or so oystermen left working the Apalachicola Bay are hoping for.

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