Monday, Governor Rick Scott announced that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) completed and submitted a status report on the Florida Gulf Coast oyster disaster to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The report supports the Governor's request to the United States Secretary of Commerce to declare a commercial fishery failure due to a fishery resource disaster for Florida's oyster-harvesting areas in the Gulf of Mexico, particularly those in Apalachicola Bay.
Governor Scott said, "This report underscores the need for the federal government to declare a commercial fishery failure for families who rely on Apalachicola Bay for their survival. The state of Florida has supported the region with a $4.7 million investment from the Florida Families First Budget for water quality projects, and with this analysis we hope that the federal government will work to provide the support families need."
The oyster disaster is the consequence of low water flow due to water-management policies and overconsumption of the river water, intensified by the impact of severe drought conditions experienced in the southeastern United States. Prolonged low water flows resulted in higher salt content in the bay systems where oysters live. Higher salt content led to more abundant oyster predators and natural oyster diseases. Low freshwater flows led to less food available for oysters.
"This disaster has taken a tremendous biological and economic toll on Florida's Gulf Coast oyster habitat, oyster resources, oyster harvesters and oyster processors" said Nick Wiley, executive director of the FWC.
The report also determined there was no evidence that the oyster disaster was caused by fishery management policies or the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
A declaration of a commercial fishery failure by the United States Department of Commerce enables Congress to consider fisheries disaster funding to assist in restoring Florida's Gulf Coast renewable oyster resources and address economic impact for the communities and the industries that rely on oyster harvesting pursuant to the federal Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
For the Governor's September 2012 letter requesting a commercial fishery failure declaration, click HERE
Information provided by Gov. Rick Scott's office