Oyster fishermen are shown in Apalachicola Bay in Apalachicola, Florida, Wednesday June 23, 2010. (Photo by Walter Michot/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Federal officials are declaring a fishery disaster for Florida's oyster industry in the Gulf of Mexico.
The declaration by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce sets the stage for possible help from the federal government if Congress approves it. That aid could include economic assistance to fishing businesses and communities, including oyster fishermen.
The announcement comes a day before both U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson are scheduled to be in Apalachicola for a field hearing by the Senate Commerce Committee. The committee will take testimony about the impact of water flows in Apalachicola Bay.
The collapse of the oyster industry last year followed a drought that reduced freshwater into the bay. But state officials have also blamed the lack of freshwater flow due to increased consumption in Georgia.