On the eve of a U. S. Senate hearing in Franklin County, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on Monday declared a commercial fishery failure for the oyster fishery in Apalachicola Bay.
Gov. Rick Scott requested the declaration in September 2012 because the fishery was near collapse. A May 2013 state report sent last week to federal officials blames lack of fresh water flowing from federal reservoirs in Georgia and Alabama.
Pritzker declared the commercial fishery failure for the oyster fishery along the west coast of Florida. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the fishery resource disaster resulted from excessive drought conditions in Apalachicola Bay and elsewhere in the Florida panhandle during the 2012-13 winter fishing season.
"We understand the economic significance this historic oyster fishery has for fishermen and related businesses in the panhandle of Florida," Pritzker said in a news release. "Because the drought caused such a decline in oyster landings and a rather significant drop in revenue, the fishery qualified as a resource disaster under the nation's fishing law."
The U. S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will conduct a field hearing Tuesday in Apalachicola at the courthouse annex starting at 11 a.m. U. S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, and Scott also are scheduled to tour the area.
The May report issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the population of legal size oysters has dropped 67 percent. Recovery of oyster populations, the report said, will take five years under "ideal" conditions with adequate fresh water flow.
In a statement issued Monday night, Scott said NOAA did the right thing in making the declaration.
"Now we need the support of Congress to provide the dollars necessary to support this region's recovery," Scott said. "Congress should move with a sense of urgency to provide much-needed support for families in the region, so they can get back on their feet and continue providing our nation with the world's best oysters."
Read the full story at the Florida Current>>
National Fisherman Live: 12/16/14
In this episode, Bruce Buls, WorkBoat's technical editor, interviews Long Island lobsterman John Aldridge, who survived for 12 hours after falling overboard in the dead of night. Aldridge was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Pacific Marine Expo, which took place Nov. 19-21 in Seattle.
NOAA, in consultation with the Department of the Interior, has appointed 10 new members to the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee. The 20-member committee is composed of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experience who advise the departments of commerce and the interior on ways to strengthen and connect the nation's MPA programs. The new members join the 10 continuing members appointed in 2012.