- Hurricane Idalia caused economic damages of $34.1 million in Florida’s aquaculture industry, with Aquaculture Certificate of Registration holders reporting $29.4 million in damages and shellfish processors accounting for $401,520 in losses.
- Adjusted figures, factoring in non-reporting facilities, raised the total losses for Aquaculture Certificate of Registration holders to an estimated $33.8 million, and the cumulative losses for both sectors amounted to $34.1 million.
- Shellfish farmers, constituting 88 percent of the survey respondents, were the hardest-hit group, with long-term impacts expected due to the hurricane’s disruption of cultivation phases.
- Earlier this month, the state sought federal aid for its fishing industry through a federal fisheries disaster declaration.
Hurricane Idalia’s landfall last month resulted in $34.1 million of economic damages in Florida’s aquaculture industry, according to a state Department of Agriculture assessment published on Tuesday afternoon.
Initial datasets reflect that Aquaculture Certificate of Registration holders reported $29.4 million in damages, while shellfish processors accounted for $401,520 in losses. Adjusted figures, factoring in non-reporting facilities, elevated the total losses for Aquaculture Certificate of Registration holders to an estimated $33.8 million. Subsequent to cumulative adjustments, losses for both sectors amounted to $34.1 million.
The study, aimed at gauging the financial impact of Hurricane Idalia, targeted 324 Aquaculture Certificate of Registration holders and 64 shellfish processors situated in regions influenced by the storm.
“Aquaculture is Florida’s most diverse agribusiness, and it took a hard hit following Hurricane Idalia – particularly the shellfish industry in the impacted areas,” said Commissioner Wilton Simpson. “While these numbers are estimates, they are expected to increase as farmers continue to evaluate losses, and we will do everything we can to support this important industry unique to Florida and ensure that they have all the tools they need to recover.”
Shellfish farmers constituted 88 percent of survey respondents, making them the hardest-hit group. Hurricane Idalia’s timing, coinciding with the peak hurricane season from June to November, disrupted peak cultivation phases. Clams, with their two-year growth cycle from seed production to harvest, will continue to suffer losses for the foreseeable future due to the hurricane’s impact, according to agency documents.
Per state data, there are approximately 1,000 certified aquaculture farms in Florida, located in every region of the state, which produce an estimated 1,500 varieties of fish, mollusks, and crustaceans for food markets as well as for sporting, conservation, and educational purposes.
Sales of Florida aquaculture products, as reported by the USDA, totaled approximately $75 million in 2005, $68.8 million in 2012, and $71.6 million in 2018. Based on the data, Florida ranked 9th in the nation for total overall aquaculture value in 2018, down slightly from 6th place in 2013 and 7th place in 2005, indicating a weakening sector economy.
Earlier this month, the state sought federal aid for its fishing industry from the U.S. Secretary of Commerce through a federal fisheries disaster declaration. The motion, authorized under the authority of the Fishery Disasters Improvement Act is granted when a fishery experiences a significant and unexpected decline in fish stocks or a natural disaster that affects the industry’s ability to catch and sell fish. The declaration allows for federal assistance to be provided to affected fishermen and fishing communities.
“We understand particularly in this area fishing is very important,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis upon the request. “We are going to request from the U.S. Secretary of Commerce a federal fisheries disaster to help our fisheries rebuild.”