WASHINGTON, D.C. – Help is on the way for the depressed oyster industry in Florida's Apalachicola Bay thanks in part to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL).
Since 2012, the lawmaker has pressed the U.S. Department of Commerce for prompt financial assistance for the oyster industry that has been decimated by lack of freshwater.
And today the Commerce Department announced it is awarding $6.3 million in disaster funding to Apalachicola Bay’s oyster industry, which can be used for economic recovery efforts such as job training and oyster bed restoration.
“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.”
The oyster industry began a downward spiral in the summer of 2012, when decades of reduced freshwater access due to the ongoing Florida-Georgia-Alabama water dispute began to take its toll. The situation was also exacerbated by persistent drought.
Sens. Nelson and Rubio held a field hearing in the Bay area last summer to draw attention to the oystermen’s plight.
Before the disaster, the Apalachicola Bay produced 90 percent of Florida’s oysters, and ten percent of oysters nationwide. The disaster has already affected 2,500 jobs in the Bay area, and that number is expected to rise.