Oyster fisheries collapse in Florida’s Apalachicola Bay: When Ideology, not science, guides policy

The politics behind the collapse of the oyster fishery in Apalachicola Bay are impossible to ignore.  Especially given Tea Party Governor Rick Scott’s appeal to the federal government (Small Business Association or SBA) for emergency funds to bail out the communities with economies devastated by the collapse.


Rick Scott has repeated the following mantra again and again, wanting to “Balance the budget — without gimmicks, one-time revenues, borrowed funds, temporary funds, or tax increases.” It inspired his refusal of federal money (loans and grants) in the following scenarios:

So why is he taking federal money now? To make a short term payment to communities in an economic crisis, but this is near-sighted policy as usual.

The real solution to fisheries in a state of collapse is a longterm and sustained investment in restoring the affected ecosystems to a pre-crisis state. Scott and other Tea Partiers are constantly berating environmental management as frivolous spending, or they criticize the science/data as a way to delay restorations or cleanups to infinity. The fact of the matter is that investing in ecological restorations is critical in a state like Florida, with an economy that is so intrinsically tied  to the ecological health of its costal ecosystems.



If not outright restoration, then the ecosystem services provided by fresh water sources must be economically values in terms of dollar amounts. Step one would be to review the necessity of them dams along the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. These are the freshwater sources that the oysters depend on. Who is benefiting from the ecosystem services provided by the freshwater they dam up? If the disproportionate benefit accrues in terms of economic revenue, then it is these private interests who need to make damage payments to the communities with crashing fisheries.

Florida does not make science driven policy based on an accurate assessment of natural capital, and its value in dollars. In my opinion, it is the only way to make ideological Tea Partiers begin to realize the return on investment that healthy, restored ecosystems can make to the Florida economy.


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