Eastpoint, a small town on HIghway 98 across the bay from Apalachicola and close to St. George Island, was established in 1898. Four and five generations of families have hand-harvested oysters here and at one time they comprised over 90% of oysters nationwide and over 10% in Florida.
I arrived in Eastpoint just before sunset on my way to Apalachicola after having kayaked in Tate's Hell. I was overcome by the feeling of abandonment I experienced here. Though people do still go out oystering, there are far fewer people doing it and they are only getting about 5 sacks instead of 150 sacks a day. The decline in the oyster populations has also caused prices to skyrocket from $20 to $70 a bag, according to an article in an April 5 article in the Associated Press. This sign warns oystermen to call first before going out.
These images and the ones that follow were taken that evening as the sun continued to go down and the atmosphere of desolation increased.
After spending a couple of days in Apalachicola, I passed through Eastpoint again on my way to the pitcher plants in the Apalachicola National Forest. I drove through just after sunrise and photographed the boats that should have been out in the Bay, but were stranded on shore instead. There was something so touching about witnessing the golden light hit the worn wood, the detritus, and the overgrown grasses beneath the mauve clouds dotting the sky. It made me wish more than ever that the proper mix of fresh and saltwater could be attained, so that these people could regain their livelihoods and these buildings and boats could be the center of bustling life again. The health of our ecosystems most definitely have a profound impact on our way of life and the health of towns and people both in this region and all regions the oyster industry touched. I hope you will view these images and allow them to touch your heart.
Even though I only saw one boat going out from another location that morning and despite the presence of abandoned boats with garbage inside that had clearly been there for awhile, the softness of the morning light made me feel a little more hopeful. I know a lot of attention is being directed to this issue around the country and hopefully that will help these people get their livelihoods back and more oysters on the table for the rest of us!