Oil Spill Monies to Improve Oyster Habitat in Big Bend Region
Kendall Shoelles, 3rd generation oysterman from Apalachicola, depends on healthy and abundant oyster populations. Photo by Carlton Ward, Jr.
More than $100 million has been awarded to 25 restoration projects in Florida from the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund. This fund, administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, supports high priority restoration and conservation needs using plea agreement monies from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
One of the recently-funded projects includes oyster habitat recovery in the Big Bend region. This project will restore a degraded chain of oyster reefs in the Big Bend area to promote resilience and ecological benefit to a 50,000- acre coastal landscape comprised of vast salt marshes, seagrass beds and coastal forests that collectively host numerous fish and wildlife species of conservation and economic importance.
Aquaculture is a critical economic driver in many coastal towns in Florida, especially within the Big Bend and Apalachicola region in the northeastern Panhandle. In the 2015 “Glades to Gulf” Expedition, the Expedition team spent a day on the water with third-generation oysterman, Kendall Shoelles, and learned the importance of having clean and abundant freshwater in rivers that feed into the Gulf to support oyster populations. Connecting, protecting and restoring critical areas within the Florida Wildlife Corridor not only preserves habitat for aquatic life, but the rural economies and cultural heritage that depend on these species.
This $8.3 million grant was awarded to University of Florida, Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences. Partners include the Suwannee River Water Management District, Cedar Key Oysterman’s Association and Cedar Key Aquaculture Association.
More info about this and other projects is available HERE.