The U.S. Department of Commerce on Wednesday approved $6.3 million in disaster-assistance funding for the struggling Apalachicola Bay oyster industry.
The money can be used for economic recovery efforts, including job training and oyster bed restoration.
The oyster industry has been hard-hit by a lack of freshwater since 2012, at least in part because of reduced flows due to an ongoing water dispute involving Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The situation was also exacerbated by persistent drought.
Prior to that, the Apalachicola Bay produced 90 percent of Florida oysters and 10 percent of oysters nationwide. The low freshwater flows have already affected 2,500 jobs in the Apalachicola Bay area, and that number is expected to rise.
The Department of Commerce funding follows a request from U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, who held a field hearing in Apalachicola last summer to draw attention to the oyster industry’s plight.
“The thousands of oystermen hurt by this disaster will finally get some much-needed help,” Nelson said.