Florida Seafood still safe

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson today said that seafood currently being harvested in Florida is safe and has not been impacted by the oil spill in the gulf. As the vitality of seafood industries in other gulf states is in great threat Bronson wants to make clear that Florida's seafood industry is safe. Federal agencies and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are consistantly testing water samples to ensureanything harvested is safe to consume, and that nothing unsafe is sent to markets.

While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is restricting commercial and recreational fishing in federal waters from Louisiana to waters off Pensacola Bay, the ban does not yet impact waters extended out 25 miles from Escambia County.  Currently, all species harvested from the closure line to shore -- including grouper, snapper, golden tilefish, mullet, blue crab, oysters, flounder, sea trout and shrimp -- are safe to eat.  Stone crab season is in effect until May 15 and is also unaffected by the ban.  Oysters are also being monitored to ensure their safety.

"Our shrimp, shellfish and other seafood being harvested right now are fine, and I don't want people watching reports of the oil spill to think differently," Bronson said.  "If and when Florida waters are impacted by the spill, we will take immediate action to close the waters to commercial and recreational harvesting."

In 2008, the latest figures available, the quantity of seafood sold at the dock just on the west coast surpassed 66 million pounds with a value of about $125 million.  This is the price paid to the fishermen for their catch, not the retail or wholesale value.