U.S. Commerce Dept. approves $6.3M emergency aid for Apalachicola oyster industry

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The U.S. Department of Commerce will give up to $6.3 million in disaster-assistance funds for economic recovery efforts in the hard-hit Apalachicola Bay oyster industry.

The emergency funds will be for job training, oyster bed restoration and other programs.

Since 2012, Florida’s oyster industry suffered from a lack of freshwater, in part from reduced flows caused by running water disputes between Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Exacerbating the situation was repeated drought conditions.

Before production troubles began, 90 percent of Florida oysters came from Apalachicola Bay, as well as 10 percent of oysters nationwide.

Lowered freshwater flows already affected 2,500 Apalachicola Bay-area jobs, a number expected to grow.

Department of Commerce funding came from a request by U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, after holding a field hearing last summer in Apalachicola to draw attention to the oyster industry’s troubles.

“The thousands of oystermen hurt by this disaster will finally get some much-needed help,” said Nelson. “It’s not enough, but it’s a good start.”

Gov. Rick Scott also appealed to the federal government for help.

“This $6.3 million in assistance funding will help to provide immediate assistance to strengthen both Franklin County and the entire Apalachicola region,” Scott said. “We will be able to help the families of our oystermen devastated by the collapse of Apalachicola Bay, and provide job training, so families in the region are able to support their loved ones for generations to come.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.