Along the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Florida, St. George Island unfurls with long stretches of pearly sand and serene landscapes. I visited this hidden, 22-mile barrier island expecting the unspoiled beauty but I also discovered a very distinctive, old school lifestyle that includes oyster harvesting. Oysters can only be harvested manually in St. George so the surrounding Apalachicola Bay is dotted with small boats like the one above.
These oyster boats haven't changed much since they were developed 100 years ago. The wooden structure measures 20-23 feet and are equipped with a small cubicle to protect against the sun, a culling board to separate the oysters and long, 12-feet tongs used to rake the shellfish from the oyster beds onto the boats.
Oyster harvesting is often a family business, I spotted many husband and wife teams out on the water, patiently culling oysters, piling them into 60 pound sacks that go for approximately $25 each. Oysters from the Florida Gulf Coast provide about 80% of the State's supply and 20% of the country's. I don't eat shellfish but oysters were everywhere in St. George, especially on the beach shores. I went home with a two pound sack of my own, filled with pretty shells, a lot of them iridescent oyster shells bleached by the sun and colored by sea plants.