Governor Scott Announces Plans For $6.3 Million Commercial Oyster Fishery Disaster Funding

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By: Emily Johnson
March 25, 2014

Apalachicola, FL - "I've been oystering off and on I'd say about 30 years," said Dink Turner, Apalachicola Bay Oysterman

In the time Turner has been oystering he said he's never seen Apalachicola's Bay this bad.

"Now it ain't there, a lot of people are having to move away," said Turner.

The tough times is the reason why Governor Scott's Office announced plans of a Commercial Oyster Fishery Disaster Funding Program.

A total of $6.3 million will go into the Apalachicola Bay.

$4,569,767 will be used for habitat improvement.
$415,473 will be used to monitor the bay's wild oyster population.
$563,233 will go to the vocational and educational training for oysterman.
$768,060 will go to upgrade processing facilities.

Shannon Hartsfield who is President of the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association said the funding will help the industry, but he'd like to see the habitat improvement fund set up differently.

"I would want to see, instead of separating the hand shelling from the commercial fisherman and the barge shelling put that money together and let the whole industry do they shelling," said Hartsfield.

Funding for the program will be distributed on July 1ST of this year. Turner said he wished Governor Scott's program would've been available sooner.

"It would help dramatically, the only thing is I wish it would have been available last year," said Turner.

On another note, most of the bay has been closed recently, because of the recent rains. However, Cat Point, a popular oystering spot will re-open tomorrow at sunrise.

News Release: Governor Scott's Office

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced the projects in the Apalachicola Bay area that he is recommending to receive disaster assistance funding. These projects will help the affected communities recover from the devastation and move forward to have sustainable fisheries and fishing communities in the future.

Governor Scott said, “I am excited today to recommend these projects that will share $6.3 million to help restore economic vitality and provide relief to the oystermen and their families who have endured such hardship in the Apalachicola Bay area. In addition to bolstering their industry, this funding will be used to provide vocational and educational training for oystermen and their families so they are able to support their families for generations to come.”

The projects are focused on four areas and are subject to final approval from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They are:

  • $4,569,767 for Apalachicola Bay Habitat Improvement. Apalachicola Bay will be reshelled, which is the process of adding oyster shells to existing oyster reefs and is a typical habitat improvement technique. Young oyster larvae need a hard surface onto which to settle after they are spawned. Hiring fishermen to conduct shelling operations also produces economic activity across a larger portion of the community than barge shelling.

  • $415,473 for Monitoring of the Wild Apalachicola Bay Oyster Population. The oyster population will be monitored to help evaluate the success of shelling programs, and so that the fishery can be adaptively managed as the oyster population recovers.

  • $563,233 for Vocational and Educational Training for Apalachicola Bay Oyster Industry Workers. Vocational and educational training will be conducted so that those in the oyster industry can have a greater diversity of job opportunities.

  • $768,060 for Apalachicola Bay Processor Facilities Upgrades. In order for the oyster industry to remain viable, upgrades in processing facilities are needed. Cost reimbursement agreements (in whole or in part) will be made with wholesale dealers to make these improvements, based on losses incurred during the disaster.

Last month, Governor Scott announced Florida was awarded $6.3 million in disaster assistance funding for the communities that were devastated by the collapse of the oyster harvesting industry in Apalachicola Bay. This disaster assistance funding follows Governor Scott’s request for a commercial fishery failure.

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