For Whom The Bell Tolls

From a recent Facebook post ....

I had the opportunity to speak yesterday in Tallahassee to 60-70 civic leaders at a luncheon to which I had been invited. Along with Nancy Paul, my Events Manager, we opened fresh and local oysters for their enjoyment, and I hope I opened the eyes of some of the people who were in the room. I'll stop short of calling it a "TED" talk, but the goal was to achieve the same thing that TED talks achieve.
Since I seem to be under constant criticism for calling aquaculture industry leaders to account for the triploid oyster debacle that has driven countless farming operations and even the big local Co-op under, I won't rehash here all of my talking points from yesterday. But, be assured that I am making the case whenever possible that we were given oyster seed technology that was NOT READY FOR PRIMETIME in the northern GOM and 1) either industry leaders KNEW IT, and gave that faulty seed to us anyway -- or -- they did NOT KNOW IT when they gave it to us (see below for my opinion on THAT!).
(Actually, they did not give us anything in that we had to PAY a royalty for the privilege of purchasing their faulty technology!)
If this is the case, they knew that those of us trying to make their seed grow to maturity along the Panhandle of Florida would face a very steep uphill climb to make our farms profitable. We would likely have 60 percent or greater loss ratios for the crops we planted. In the case of those of us farming in Alligator Harbor, that loss ratio sometimes averaged 100 percent. And, without warnings, they let us become their science experiment, watching a millions of dollars of private investment wash out to sea as tens of millions of oysters died before maturity.
If they did NOT know, they have shown themselves to be charlatans, not scientists.
I am of the belief that they knew that their genetics were wrong and they took us down the primrose path anyway. I also believe that at one time it is possible they HAD the right genetics and somehow the animals with Gulf Coast genetics were either lost or killed. To save their programs, they substituted Virginia tetraploid brood stock for the lost Gulf Coast brood stock and tried right away to get their so-called "Florida Tetraploid" program restarted. That was 6-7 years ago. If my hunch is correct, they KNEW that the Virginia genetics would not work and said nothing to us ... think about that for a second or two.
Other recent programs to create local genetics within tetraploid oysters have failed. Famously, the University of Florida program got close to the finish line and ran out of funding three years ago.
What the industry needed was transparency. What we got was smoke and mirrors. The Virginia brood stock was (and is) doomed to failure in the salty waters of many of the northern Gulf of Mexico estuaries where heat and salinity take their toll. The current claim that they now have a FLORIDA TETRAPLOID gives me no comfort for the possibility of success. Why? Give me a good reason why I should trust the same people who are in charge of the current train wreck. Second, the mere use of the phrase "Florida Tetraploid" implies that they knew what they had prior, was NOT an animal with Gulf Coast genetics.
Was it hubris? Lack of bureaucratic oversite? A lack of empathy? that caused the industry to hurtle headlong down this path of perdition?
As one Florida IFAS extension agent told me point blank in a telephone conversation wherein I requested help for the regional industry last summer -- (quoting) "In anything new there will always be winners an losers".
That felt like an un-caring, out-of-touch, government-paid bureaucrat to me, on the other end of the line. The statement was crass.
And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is what the Florida industry is up against. Criticize me if you wish, for trying to get to the bottom of this mess, or for making the story public in social media, but I'll say that in Western Kentucky farm country where I grew up, 60 or 100 percent loss ratios created by faulty seed purchased at the local seed supply operations would have led to mass lynchings of the seed charlatans in the public square of many a small towns.
The money is not small. The last crop Oyster Boss lost due to seed problems was a 750,000 triploid seed plant that was a one hundred percent bust. That was a $15,000.00 investment in seed that should have yielded a half-million in sales income. The genetic make up of that seed was foreign to the northern GOM -- and nobody felt any compunction to let me know it.
Yes, of course, I've abandoned the purchase of triploid oyster seeds from an industry whose technology is apparently not to be trusted. We pull our own diploid brood stock now from our own estuary. We're going to make this thing work.

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