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The Changing Seafood Industry In Florida


Historians and local old-timers say that once, Tampa Bay was overflowing with delicious oysters.

And that some rivers, like the Manatee River, were once so full of mullet that they roiled the water and their noise would keep nearby residents awake at night.

We're talking about seafood this week on Florida Matters.

We speak with Gary Mormino, a retired history professor at the University of South Florida. He still teaches a class on food and history at USF St. Petersburg and has written articles about the subject. 

Mormino talks about the types of fish Floridians ate in the past, and how development and pollution affected some of our sea life.

We also talk with Ed Chiles. The son of the late governor Lawton Chiles is the owner of several seafood restaurants, the Sandbar in Anna Maria, Beach House in Bradenton Beach and Mar Vista Dockside in Longboat Key. He talks about his efforts to include locally-caught seafood on his menus.

Chiles is also a founder of the Gulf Shellfish Institute in Manatee County, which promotes sustainable aquaculture. Chiles talks about some of the group’s efforts in the Tampa Bay area, like projects to grow and recycle more clams.

We also hear comments from our listeners, who shared their thoughts about how the state’s seafood industry has changed and what its future may hold.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.
Robin Sussingham was Senior Editor at WUSF until September 2020.