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Wakulla Environmental Institute partners with local oyster farm

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (June 10, 2013) – On Wednesday, May 15, over 60 friends of Wakulla, including leadership from Tallahassee Community College and the Wakulla Environmental Institute (WEI), gathered at Spring Creek Restaurant for an open house to showcase the restaurant’s groundbreaking efforts to cultivate locally-farmed oysters.

Leo Lovel, owner and proprietor of Spring Creek, has been exploring the aquaculture practice of farming oysters in the nearby brackish waters of Wakulla County. He cultivated oysters for nine months to prepare for the open house event and offered them for free to all the guests for tasting. He said that the general consensus was that they were the best tasting oysters most had ever had. Lovel will begin to offer these delicious treats to Spring Creek’s patrons in lieu of wild-caught oysters, the populations of which have suffered greatly in recent months.

Wakulla County’s coastal region is uniquely suited for such a venture. Oyster farming is prevalent internationally, but many believe that Wakulla could become the epicenter of production for this growing industry due to the nutrient-rich waters and warm climate. Lovel claims to have seen a much more rapid growth rate with his oysters compared to other producers.

For this reason, TCC’s Wakulla Environmental Institute has developed a working partnership with Spring Creek that would allow them to utilize a portion of WEI’s forthcoming state-leased underwater land to research and develop farmed oysters. Bob Ballard, director of the Wakulla Environmental Institute, has been instrumental in establishing this partnership.

“This is the best place in the world to grow oysters due to the nutrients here,” explained Ballard. “Oysters are also some of the most environmentally-friendly food with two times the daily requirement of B12 and Zinc and a shell of pure carbon that actually takes CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it.”

Ballard was confident of the impact for the region if this industry is allowed to flourish, and plans are already in the works for a future aquaculture degree which would include an oyster farming certificate.

“I think this has the potential to revitalize the local oyster industry,” said Ballard. “Farmed oysters help fertilize wild oysters, they encourage sport fish and they are tremendous cleaners of the environment. Just a small parcel of land can house thousands of cages which can produce hundreds of thousands of oysters.”

Aside from educating a workforce who can meet the current and future environmental demands of the region, part of WEI’s core mission is to seek out and support any efforts to foster growth in industries like tourism, fishing and agriculture of Wakulla and the surrounding coastal counties. The open house at Spring Creek was WEI’s first public showing of support for this venture, but WEI sees the partnership with Spring Creek as an opportunity to explore mutually beneficial relationships with local entrepreneurs and businesses in the interest of encouraging applied research in academics as well as private-sector economic growth.


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