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In the wake of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, consumers are able to get daily updates on the ongoing commercial harvest from a new toll-free hotline at 1-800-357-4273. Set up by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the hotline provides current information on the status of the state’s open and closed fishing harvest areas, availability of seafood varieties, and general pricing.
“Because of the extensive news media coverage of the gulf situation, many consumers are confused about whether Florida seafood is being harvested and if it is available in stores and restaurants,” explained Florida agriculture commissioner Charles H. Bronson. “We want consumers to know that Florida’s commercial fishermen continue to harvest wholesome seafood products from the waters that are unaffected by the oil spill. Florida seafood is safe and plentiful.”
According to Bronson, the hotline will be updated daily with information about the Gulf situation. He added that as well as the gulf waters off the state’s west coast, Florida fishermen harvest various seafood varieties from the unaffected Atlantic waters off the east coast.
“The Florida peninsula has more than 1,300 miles of coastline, and our commercial fishermen continue to work hard to bring in their catch for the enjoyment of consumers,” said Bronson said. “The commercial fishing industry is important to our state, and we want consumers to know that they can buy Florida seafood with confidence.”
The information from the hotline will also be posted online at the Tallahassee-based department’s seafood Web site, www.FL-Seafood.com, where consumers can also find links to other relevant sites, among them the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Webcams placed at various coastal locations and in retail establishments will be featured on the seafood site later.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, along with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are continually monitoring water and product samples.
“If and when the quality of Florida seafood is impacted by the spill, we will take immediate action to close the waters to commercial seafood harvesting,” pledged Bronson. “Our commercial fishermen take great pride in the quality reputation Florida seafood products have earned, and we would never put any product on the market that would tarnish this hard-earned reputation.”