There are new faces on the Gulf Coast’s waterfronts these days. Florida’s fishing and shellfish harvest rules and regulations have nearly driven extinct Florida’s old school commercial fishing industry. Florida’s infamous NET BAN of 1994 upended the commercial industry and caused tens of thousands of waterfront jobs to be lost throughout the state. Commercial fisherman quit the business – or were forced out – and fish houses closed up one-by-one. But, with the state-imposed changes came new opportunities for an entirely new generation.
Florida has now opened up tracts of submerged coastal lands for development of shellfish aquaculture, and sensing the educational need to train Floridians for these opportunities, Tallahassee Community College started offering an Aquaculture Program on a satellite campus in Crawfordville, FL. Young men and woman are availing themselves of TCC’s programs, and launching careers on the water, growing a safe, sustainable and fabulous tasting oyster for Fresh and Local tables throughout the South.
The energy, the drive, and the focus of Florida’s new watermen and women speaks to Florida’s vibrant future, and to Florida’s myriad shellfish aquaculture opportunities. They are picking up the shattered pieces of Florida’s commercial fishing industry. And the mosaic they are creating with it will benefit the State for years to come. Oysters are healthy for the estuarine environment, cleaning and filtering coastal waters. They are a keystone species in our bays and coastal waterways. Oysters are a healthy and natural food source. They are also a safe and sustainable source of seafood protein. All of us at Oyster Boss, and certainly the man himself, Reid Tilley, want you to avail yourself this delectable resource!
Reid Tilley, a native Floridian, is not only immersed in the waters of Florida’s Gulf Coast, shepherding his large crops of oysters, he is also deeply involved in the fabric of the Deep South culture. When he is not tending his crops or leading his aquaculture crews, he can be found setting fish traps, throwing cast nets, spear fishing for delectable fish species deep under water, or otherwise wetting a line. He is often asked by local friends to assist with special events like birthdays or weddings by supplying oysters and shucking services. At certain times of the year, he might be in a tree stand or a ground blind. Or, he might be found with a pack of dogs in the middle of the midnight swamp as he chases and captures wild hogs and boars.
Please feel free to stop and talk to him about the aquaculture leases if you see him around the Big Bend area!