A summer spent in the oyster beds

Long before oysters make it to local restaurants, their populations in Florida's lagoons must continue to be plentiful.

Long before oysters make it to local restaurants, their populations in Florida’s lagoons must continue to be plentiful.


ORLANDO — In Central Florida, there are plenty of ways to spend the summer: at the beach, taking in the theme parks, or hitting the golf course.
Linda Walters is looking for folks to spend their summer days in another way: visiting some of the region’s most spectacularly beautiful outdoor parks, and checking out the oyster beds.
Walters, a biology professor the University of Central Florida, is looking for volunteers to help out this summer on a crucial ecological project: to restore Florida’s eroding shorelines, and to help oysters in the lagoons.
Walters is sponsoring a variety of community projects that involve native plants and the rebuilding of colonies of oyster beds in the Mosquito Lagoon.
These projects are being done in June and July.
The first deals with restoring the oyster reefs that are part of the Canaveral National Shoreline, and it promises to be a fascinating trip for nature lovers. Volunteers will be traveling by boat to sections of the park that need help with reefs. For this project, UCF is partnering with the Brevard Zoo.
The dates for this project when volunteers will be needed are:
· June 18 from 8 a.m. to noon.
· June 19 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
· June 22 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
· June 23 from noon to 4 p.m.
· June 29 from 6:30–10:30 a.m.
· June 30 from 7– 11 a.m.
Anyone interested in participating can RSVP to Judy Palmer at the Brevard Zoo, by emailing her at jpalmer@brevardzoo.org. Palmer will provide instructions on meeting sites when reservations are made.
Another project coming up is the Living Shoreline Stabilization project, which involves planting native vegetation and deploying oyster shells along shorelines in the city of Oak Hill and in the historic city of St. Augustine. RSVPs are needed to participate by emailing Walters at linda.walters@ucf.edu.
Volunteers are also needed on July 25-26 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Seminole Rest Trail, a historic site project in Oak Hill, and Walters and her team also will work at Fort Mose Historic State Park in St. Augustine later this month. Times and days for that project will be announced.
For more information on any of the projects, email Walters or call 407-823-6120.
The University of Central Florida is the nation’s second-largest university with nearly 60,000 students, and offers more than 200 degree programs at its main campus in Orlando.
In his book “The Oyster Guide”, author Rowan Jacobsen writes that “Like wine and cheese, oysters owe much of their flavor to terroir, the specific environment in which they grow—indeed, oysters are the food that tastes most like the sea. Today, there are at least two hundred unique oyster appellations in North America, each producing oysters with a distinct and often dazzling flavor.”
However, Florida’s oyster population is facing serious challenges right now. Last week, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced that the daily oyster harvest in Apalachicola Bay would be drastically reduced this summer, effective from June 1 to Aug. 31, because Apalachicola Bay oysters have significantly declined in population due to a lack of water flow.
The Wildlife Commission is responding by lowering the daily commercial harvest and possession limit, from 20 bags to eight.
They are also reducing the recreational harvest to five gallons of oysters in the shell, and prohibiting commercial oyster harvests on Fridays and Saturdays.

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