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Feds declare fisheries disaster for struggling Apalachicola Bay

1rmHUZ.Em.56The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that the drought conditions in Apalachicola Bay for the last year have resulted in a fishery disaster for Florida’s oystermen, allowing them to obtain relief funds.

The announcement comes a day before U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio are scheduled to attend a Senate Commerce Committee field hearing in Apalachicola on Tuesday to gather testimony on the economic impact of the water conditions on the oyster industry. 

“We understand the economic significance this historic oyster fishery has for fishermen and related businesses in the panhandle of Florida,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker in a statement. “Because the drought caused such a decline in oyster landings and a rather significant drop in revenue, the fishery qualified as a resource disaster under the nation’s fishing law.”

In the last year, the oyster industry has lost 44 percent of its revenues as the oyster population in the Gulf of Mexico has declined an estimated 60 percent.

“It takes three years for oysters to reach marketable size, so we are concerned about this depleted oyster resource that has traditionally supported a viable fishery,” said Sam Rauch, acting assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA Fisheries in a statement. “We will continue to work with Congress, the state and oyster fishermen through this challenging time.”

Nelson asked the federal government to declare the fisheries disaster a year ago and it was followed by a joint letter last year from Nelson, Rubio and North Florida congressmen in September 2012. Gov. Rick Scott made a similar request that month.  Download 09-12-12 Letter to Sec Blank re Oyster Disaster Declaration (1) 

Miami Herald photo by Patrick Farrell

 

Comments

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Rodney Barreto

It's long over due. Thank you Senators Nelson and Rubio , Govenor Scott for all your efforts that have lead to this relief. This is is an unparalleled industry in North Florida( Applochicola Bay Oyster are some of the finish oysters in the country )

Jo

I love Apalachicola oysters. Oysters are not just tasty they are also the kidneys of the planets bays. This drought is not the sole cause of this problem. Georgia and Alabama have been abusing water rights to the rivers that feed the bay for a many years and big money politicians have covered their eyes to the plight of the oyster industry to open their hands to developers. Now they are claiming a drought. Bull. It is blatant abuse of the water supply for corporate interests and misuse by communities and farming and water bottlers.

Jo

Why should you care? You don’t like oysters? You may be interested to know that each oyster individually filters 50 gallons of water per day. Oysters are to bays and estuaries as our kidneys are to us, we die without them. Apalachicola Bay was one of the most productive estuarine systems in the Northern hemisphere and is an exceptionally important nursery area for the Gulf of Mexico. Over 95% of all species harvested in the open Gulf have to spend a portion of their life in estuarine waters. Blue crabs, for example, migrate as much as 300 miles to spawn in Apalachicola Bay. Apalachicola Bay is a major forage area for such offshore fish species as gag grouper and gray snapper.
The enormous growth of metropolitan Atlanta, and the resulting increase in water withdrawals from the Chattahoochee river have a devastating effect on Apalachicola Bay in Florida. The Congress of the United States has been asked to intervene in the fight between Georgia, Florida, and Alabama over rights to the river water. The lawsuit is still in court while Apalachicola suffers.

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