Hurricane Idalia made landfall on Florida‘s west coast on the morning of August 30. The hurricane’s destructive Category 3 winds, together with torrential rain, storm surge and flooding, left a trail of flattened properties and destroyed livelihoods, with the Florida aquaculture industry particularly at risk.
The full extent of the damage is not yet known, but media reports have emerged noting significant damage to fishing communities and small producers of shellfish and shrimp.
WeAreAquaculture asked Josh Neese, CEO of the Florida Oyster Trading Company, for his thoughts on the Florida aquaculture industry’s vulnerability to such extreme weather events.
Extreme weather: a matter of when, not if
“While hurricanes in Florida are primarily unpredictable in regards to frequency and intensity, it is a matter of when, not if,” Neese told WeAreAquaculture this week.
Neese and his family have not been directly affected by Hurricane Idalia, he says, but such extreme weather events can be devastating for seafood producers in Florida.
“That means there must be a plan in a place with a team to execute said plan. This is not solely for prep but also recovery. And the labor component is where I believe the preparedness lies. I am sure most operations have the know-how to prepare but I feel the hands to execute are the problem, causing business to “roll the dice” on how (or if) they prepare.”
“There must be a plan in a place with a team to execute said plan. This is not solely for prep but also recovery.”
“If I am a one-person operation with 200 cages, I must make a decision whether or not to sink the cages, remove inventory, etc. because I may either be unable to do it by myself or will be unable to properly recover and return the business to its standard operating state once the storm has passed (either directly or indirectly).”
Finances a roadblock to resilience for small farms
“Furthermore there is a financial aspect. Capital expenditures are a gap or roadblock for startup farms in that there may not be sufficient funds to purchase robust gear able to survive high energy tropical events.”
Neese stresses that such issues need to be addressed prior to launching an oyster farming business, or indeed other types of aquacuture ventures.
“These are aspects The Florida Oyster Trading Company is addressing through its Oyster Cluster model – access to resources, communal services, and possibly most importantly, a talent pipeline to execute predetermined strategies.”
“Oyster aquaculture in Florida is undoubtedly at risk during hurricane season, however those risks can be mitigated with proper planning and the resources to implement,” he added.