Gov. Rick Scott is asking the federal government to declare the Apalachicola oyster harvesting area a fishery resource disaster area. Scott said in a letter dated Wednesday to Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank that the outlook for the winter harvesting season is “poor” and that Franklin County officials estimate the down year will affect 2,500 jobs, including oystermen, processors and other related jobs.
The main culprit appears to be the drought that has affected the upstream river basin. While Florida hasn’t been as hard hit by this year’s devastating drought conditions in other parts of the country, the Apalachicola River, which flows into the bay bringing fresh water needed for oysters to thrive, has been low because of several years of drought in Alabama and Georgia. “This absence of freshwater contributes to higher salinity levels adversely affecting oyster populations and contributing to mass natural mortality events and a dramatic increase in oyster predation,” Scott wrote. Oystermen have reacted to the reduction in population by taking illegal oysters – such as those that are too small –exacerbating the problem, he said. Scott’s request, if granted, would bring federal money in to further assess the degree of the decline, work on restoring the population and provide economic assistance to the communities on the bay. Oystering is a $6.6 million a year industry in Franklin County in the Panhandle.
Via The News Service of Florida.