A Florida gubernatorial candidate made a stop at an oyster farming cooperative in Wakulla County Wednesday. The visit shows a different way of harvesting the Panhandle’s signature shellfish is gaining political ground.
Tallahassee mayor and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum toured the Panacea Oyster Co-Op this week. The group supports shellfish farmers, who cultivate their crops in floating baskets, a practice called aquaculture. That’s in contrast to conventional oysterers, who use tongs to harvest their catch wild. Bob Ballard heads Tallahassee Community College’s aquaculture program, and he says he’s seen interest from recent congressional candidates too.
“I’ve taken them on tours of the aquaculture farming out there. And all were very, very interested. So it’s not surprising at all that he would want to see what’s going on firsthand,” Ballard said.
Proponents say aquaculture is more economically and environmentally sustainable than conventional harvesting.
“It’s excellent for the environment. It’s excellent for the economy. So I fully understand why anybody who’s running for office would want to be associated and be a part of this oyster aquaculture program that we have in Wakulla County,” Ballard said.
But the practice hasn’t yet caught on in Apalachicola Bay, known for its oysters, and its struggle for freshwater access.