Pathway to Recovery
Local oystermen helping to shell ABSI oyster reef restoration experiments. Credit: Maddie Mahood, FSU
The Apalachicola Bay System Initiative
Newsletter - December 2021
The ABSI mission: to gain insight into the root causes of decline of the Apalachicola Bay ecosystem with a focus on oyster reefs, and ultimately, with guidance from the Community Advisory Board and input from stakeholders and the public, to develop science-informed restoration and ecosystem-based management plans focused on the recovery of oyster reefs and the health of Apalachicola Bay.
News from the Community Advisory Board
The effort to help Florida’s troubled Apalachicola Bay and its famous oysters cleared a key hurdle on November 16th. The Apalachicola Bay System Initiative (ABSI) Community Advisory Board (CAB) unanimously adopted the framework document for the Apalachicola Bay System (ABS) Ecosystem-Based Adaptive Management and Restoration Plan (the Plan).

Community leaders, working with state agencies and scientists, will begin evaluating the Plan Framework (click for downloadable PDF) in early 2022. This document comprises five goals that address ecosystem restoration, oyster fishery management, Plan implementation, community engagement, and other recommendations outside the specific scope of the ABSI including economic. Within each goal are a number of strategies and actions that have been proposed to accomplish the goal. Each of these elements will be evaluated fully by the CAB with input from the public, and either accepted, changed, or rejected to create the final Plan.  The evaluation process will integrate ongoing research generated by ABSI and other scientific sources.

Top priorities in the Plan include:
  • Researching the best materials and locations to build or expand existing oyster reefs, and determining the area of habitat needed to maintain a viable oyster population and sustainable fishery.
  • Identifying monitoring needs to assess the health of oyster populations and detect changes in environmental conditions and habitat quality over time.
  • Evaluating a suite of management approaches, such where, when, and how sustainable harvesting can resume and be maintained. Management strategies will be adaptable and will incorporate data from monitoring and stock assessment programs. 
  • Continuation of an open and transparent process for the development of the Plan with many opportunities for stakeholder engagement and input  
  • Developing and expanding shell recycling programs, including ways to make it financially viable into the future. Learn about the history of shell recycling in Franklin County here.

The final Plan, which will be produced at the end of the evaluation process, will use science to guide oyster management and restoration strategies, and requires working closely with fishermen and other local stakeholders. Immediate efforts will focus on assessment of oyster resources, enhancing oyster reefs, and finding the best ways to kickstart oyster larvae settlement and growth. Community engagement and input is critical to the success of the Plan. Once complete, natural resource agencies and restoration entities will be called upon to adopt and implement the Plan. Community engagement efforts will be increasing over the next year as project leaders communicate the ABSI science and learn from the community. Additionally, a subset of the project team will be working to identify short and long-term funding opportunities to help sustain restoration activities.  

ABSI scientists will be monitoring progress on the experimental restoration projects and will use that data, along with results from the mapping and modeling, for large-scale restoration and management. 
Phase IV of the CAB will continue on in the New Year!

The date of the next CAB meeting is
TBD -- check the CAB webpage for updates.
We are always interested in hearing from you so if you have questions or comments, please send them to our email address, fsucml-absi@fsu.edu.