APALACHICOLA, Florida -- Less than three years ago, the Apalachicola Bay oyster fishery was one of the most productive in the nation. Now Florida officials and a group representing the commercial fishing industry are saying the bay oyster harvest may have to shut down completely for 18 months.

In 2012, Apalachicola Bay oyster fishers harvested more than 3 million pounds of oyster meat, roughly 92 percent of the Florida oyster harvest and 10 percent of the harvest nationwide. In 2013, that total dropped to around 1 million pounds, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared a fishery disaster on the bay.

Through May 2014, just 126,142 pounds had been harvested in the bay, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) figures.

Things in the bay have gotten so bad, oyster fishermen can barely pull out enough oysters to pay for the gas their boats use, said Shannon Hartsfield, president of the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association.

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