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Agriculture Press Release

September 11, 2003

Bronson announces additional assistance for Franklin County Oyster Industry

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson today announced that the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will provide $55,000 of additional funding to assist the oyster industry in Franklin County.

The oyster resource development project is part of the Departmentís commitment to enhance oyster production and ensure the quality of oysters.  The Departmentís Division of Aquaculture, in cooperation with the Franklin County Seafood Workerís Association, will conduct oyster resource development projects during September.  Project participants are expected to plant more than 100,000 bushels of adult and juvenile oysters on public oyster reefs in Apalachicola Bay.

Restoring public oyster reefs with live oysters uses a resource which would otherwise be lost to oyster harvesters and the seafood industry.  Oysters are transplanted from waters where harvesting is not allowed or from waters were growth is poor into waters approved for shellfish harvesting where conditions are more favorable for oysters to grow to market size.

Oysters planted on public reefs during the summer may be harvested during the following winter harvesting season, providing additional revenues for oyster harvesters.  Oyster resource development projects also benefit local economies by employing oystermen during periods when oyster harvesting is slow.  Generally, oyster landings are at their lowest levels during September because oystermen are harvesting from a limited number of reefs in the Summer Harvesting Area, and later in the summer harvesting season there are fewer oysters left for harvest.  The summer harvesting season ends on September 30, and oystermen move back to the more productive winter reefs on October 1.

This summer, oyster production in the Summer Harvesting Area was adversely affected by the amount of rainfall.  The increased amount of freshwater flowing from the Apalachicola Rivers has lowered oyster production on oyster reefs located closest to the river.  Typically, oyster reefs depend upon a combination of fresh and saltwater to provide a favorable environment for oysters.  Too much freshwater or too much seawater can upset this balance and reduce production or eventually kill oysters.

Shellfish resources and harvesting waters are more endangered today than ever before.  Increasing fishing pressure and shrinking productive acreage threaten oyster resources and hurt the dependent economy.  Responsive oyster management programs have been successful in preventing critical losses of productive oyster reefs and have contributed to the environmental quality in historically productive areas.

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