News Releases

Pair arrested for illegal oyster harvesting

News Release

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Media contact: Stan Kirkland, 850-265-3676

Two Franklin County residents were arrested July 21 and booked into the Franklin County jail for oystering in permanently closed waters at Eastpoint.

Ottis E. Russell (DOB 10/06/65) and Sonya Starr Murray (DOB 12/08/60), both of Carrabelle, face charges for oystering in prohibited area, harvesting oysters between sunset and sunrise, and possession of unculled oysters. Russell was also charged with resisting arrest without violence and possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Resource Protection Service officers John Allen Jr. and Matt Gore watched Russell and Murray collecting oysters after dark near Eastpoint Channel. The two were arrested at midnight when they brought in seven bags of oysters.

Under Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shellfish rules, while some areas of Apalachicola Bay are open to oystering, other areas, such as near Eastpoint Channel, are permanently closed due to water quality issues.

“It’s important for the viability of the commercial oystering industry that consumers have faith that the oysters they consume are taken from approved oystering areas and are as safe as possible,” said Capt. Rob Beaton, FWC law enforcement supervisor. “What the officers did is stop over 500 pounds of potentially contaminated shellfish from entering the market and possibly making someone sick.”

Beaton said officers have made more than a dozen similar arrests over the last couple of months for oystering in closed areas.



FWC Facts:
Red tides have been documented along Florida's Gulf coast since the 1840s and likely occurred earlier. Fish kills around Tampa Bay were mentioned in the logs of Spanish explorers.

Learn More at AskFWC