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Fishing and aquaculture affected by Piney Point spill

Business owners in Manatee County took their concerns to Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

Many fishermen, and clam and oyster farmers, continue to get hammered by red tide in and around Tampa Bay. On Wednesday, business owners in Manatee County took their concerns to the state's Agriculture Commissioner.

Livelihoods dependent on aquaculture have been devastated since red tide was reported in the waters of Tampa Bay in recent weeks.

A group gathered at the home of Curtis Hemmel in Terra Ceia to say the condition has been aggravated by several hundred millions of gallons of nutrient-rich water that poured from the shuttered Piney Point phosphate plant in March.

Hemmel owns Bay Shellfish Company, Florida's largest clam hatchery. He started the hatchery 25 years ago, after the net fishing ban was enacted in 1996.

"There are other factors that could cause that, so, do we think that was the cause, based on the timing?" he asked. "Absolutely. But it's a difficult thing to pinpoint, right?"

Hemmel and others asked Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried to include clam and oyster seeding in Tampa Bay as "mitigation" for the spill, meaning they would get financial help for their losses. That's not now required of the plant's operator.