Complaints are rolling in from customers, restaurants, and distributors alike. They say the oysters this season are too small.
“There is definitely a difference this year in what we’re seeing at the plate,” said Sandbar Restaurant owner Dave Humphreys.
“I have seen them smaller this season than in past seasons,” said oyster eater Nathan Major.
The Sandbar Restaurant makes their living off of seafood. Their main draw is oysters.
They pride themselves on selling a dozen for $3.99. But that’s getting harder to do this season.
“We’re not making a dime at that price I assure you,” Humphreys said. He says any change in size or price of oysters affects his bottom line.
Since the oil spill he’s seen the wholesale price rise 50% in addition to the smaller size. But he doesn’t want to short his customers.
“You have to be fair to people. We put a tray of oysters out. If they’re small we have to put 14 or 15 oysters instead of a dozen,” he said.
So the big question on the industries minds: why the smaller size?
A Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission molluscan biologist, Dr. Steve Geiger, tells us it could be from a host of factors.
- last winter’s harsh temperatures
- too much or too little fresh water in the oyster reefs
- early harvesting.
The FWC regulates size in the water and says they’ve given out many citations this year for illegal size. But once the boats hit the land, they no longer have authority.
The law says oysters must be 3 inches though they allow some tolerance.
But customers continue to eat them no matter the size.
“As long as they taste good and they’re fresh and they have a good salty flavor to them then that’s all that really matters,” said Major.
Dr. Geiger says there is little evidence to believe the oil spill contributed since no oil entered the estuaries around Apalachicola, where most of the oysters from the state of Florida come from.