AwShucks from Apalachicola Florida
The seafood industry in Apalachicola is as important today as it was more than 175 years ago. It is the seafood industry that has most significantly shaped the culture and maritime heritage of Apalachicola and it is the seafood industry that anchors a growing nature-based tourism industry throughout the region.
Oysters were Apalachicola’s first seafood industry. Oysters were sold locally as early as 1836, harvested much the same as today with scissor-shaped tongs hoisted aboard shallow-draft skiffs. By 1850, oysters had begun to be packed in barrels and shipped aboard steamers headed north or to other neighboring states.
Sustained commercial seafood success began in the late 1880s when German immigrant Herman Ruge and his two sons John G. and George H. Ruge opened the Ruge Brothers Canning company in 1885. Through the technique of pasteurization, the Ruge’s became Florida’s first successful commercial seafood packers. John Ruge is also credited as an early advocate of planting oysters’ shells near existing oyster “beds” to provide places for spat to settle during spawning. Other prominent oyster industry pioneers included “The Apalachicola Fish and Oyster Company,” as seen in this painting.
In July 2020, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission unanimously voted to shut down the state's iconic Apalachicola oyster fishery after years of drought and other pressures that had devastated the wild oyster beds. The fishery will be closed for up to 5 years, hoping the oyster beds will recover.
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