U.S. Department of Commerce Hears the Cries of Oysterman - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

U.S. Department of Commerce Hears the Cries of Apalachicola Oystermen

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Federal officials have now heard the cries of Franklin County oystermen through a letter from Governor Scott requesting a declaration of disaster.

News 13 has confirmed the Department of Commerce and NOAA Fisheries Department are beginning an investigation into the under producing bay.

Despite the outpouring of support from local, state and federal officials, the reality is grim for oystermen trying to make a living on the bay.

Now, they can only try to be patient while waiting on a solution.

"Me and my wife, we had four and a half bags. That's from 6 o'clock this morning until now. That's about a hundred dollars," said commercial fisherman, Jeff Page, around 1 pm on Monday.

It is just unacceptable, according to Page. He said there was a time he could gather that 4.5 bag amount by himself is half that time.

"I've worked on the bay my whole life and it wasn't this bad in 85 when we got [Hurricane] Elena," said Page.

Page said, as it gets later in the season, those small quantities are going to get harder to come by.

"I say within a month or two there'll be people behind on their mortgages, losing their vehicles, their boats. It's basically going to get serious quick," said Page.

Thursday, a letter from Governor Rick Scott requested a "declaration of disaster" for the oyster harvesting areas in the Gulf of Mexico.

Monday, News 13 contacted the U.S. Department of Commerce and NOAA Fisheries headquarters.

In a statement to News 13, they said, quote:

"We have received the disaster declaration request from Governor Scott and we are currently conducting our preliminary assessment."

There is no definitive timeline for a declaration to be assessed by the Department of Commerce, or for funding allocated by Congress.

Franklin County Commissioner, Pinki Jackel, is urging for patience.

"For the problem we have at hand, there are no quick fixes, but we're going to working everyday to do everything we can for the seafood workers and all those ancillary jobs that remain that are connected to the bay," said Jackel.

Though the times are uncertain, Jackel said one thing still rings true for these oystermen in crisis.

"They want to go back to work on the bay. They don't want a hand out they want a hand up," said Jackel.

Oystermen met Monday night to discuss re-shelling of the bay with county commissioners.

Continue to follow News 13 for more on this developing story.