Today, Governor Rick Scott announced that the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) will receive a more than $6 million federal grant from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) to assist with the recovery of the Apalachicola Bay oyster fishery. In 2012, Governor Scott requested the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to declare a commercial fishery failure for Florida’s oyster harvesting areas in the Gulf of Mexico and in August 2013, a fishery resource disaster was declared. With it, more than $6 million in funding will be made available to the state to assist in the restoration of the oyster fishery.
Governor Scott said, “This funding is great news for families in the Apalachicola area and to those affected by the oyster fishery disaster. This support will help put Florida families in this region back to work.”
This funding will assist communities affected by the commercial fishery failure with the restoration of oyster habitat, monitoring of existing oyster resources and of restoration efforts, vocational and educational training for affected fishermen, and processor facilities upgrades. The services and activities funded by this grant will be a collaborative effort of DEO, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. DEO will also work with CareerSource Gulf Coast on the hand shelling and vocational training components of the grant.
DEO Executive Director Jesse Panuccio said, “We are pleased to continue our economic and environmental restoration efforts in the Apalachicola Bay area. This funding will be a vital resource to the community as we work together to restore the oyster fisheries and ensure a well-rounded workforce. DEO looks forward to partnering with other state agencies and CareerSource Gulf Coast to administer these funds to the greatest benefit of the community.”
The breakdown of the more than $6 million will include:
- Oyster Habitat Restoration, $4.5 million – The shelling of wild oyster reefs will be conducted by fisherman in shallow areas and by barge in deeper water areas. Adding shell to an existing oyster reef is a typical habitat improvement technique.
- Monitoring of the Wild Apalachicola Bay Oyster Population, $415,000 – 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.
- Vocational and Educational Training for Apalachicola Bay Oyster Industry Workers, $538,000 – Vocational and educational training will be conducted so that those in the oyster industry can have a greater diversity of job opportunities.
- Apalachicola Bay Processor Facilities Upgrades, $769,500 – In order for the oyster industry to remain viable, sanitation upgrades in the processing facilities are needed.
Source: Office of Florida Governor Rick Scott