Tallahassee, Fla. -- BP will pay Florida $20 million dollars over the next three years to help pay the cost of extra seafood inspections and marketing as a result of the Gulf oil spill.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson says the money should help restore people's confidence in Gulf seafood. During the oil spill, some Panhandle restaurants removed the word "Gulf" from their menus because it hurt business.
Bronson says past testing has not detected any problems with oil in Florida seafood. But he says the state wants to be prepared in the future if a tropical storm stirs up the Gulf.
"So that the general public from out of state and in the state of Florida that buys our seafood will have the confidence level that number one, we're testing, and number two, the seafood is safe."
Florida has developed a food safety plan that spells out how much equipment and testing will be needed to make sure no lingering oil and chemical dispersants are affecting shrimp, crab, oysters and fish.
Bronson says the deal with BP would be extended if the seafood testing finds a problem.
"And if, at any time in this period of three years, that oil from Deepwater Horizon is found to be anywhere in our fish or shellfish, the three-year program starts over again and it's another three-year program at 10 and 10 (million dollars). So we believe it's a sound program we believe it protects the public."
Bronson says Florida has researched who's buying seafood and who has dropped it and discovered the industry has lost about 25 percent of its market.
"We have 75 percent of the people back with seafood on the table right now. We've got to work on that 25 percent that have not added it back to their diet. We hope that this testing program and our continued marketing program for 'Florida Gulf Safe' will be a positive program that will work to get some of those 25 percent that aren't back, back on seafood from the Florida Gulf."
Florida's seafood industry employs more than 5,000 people and harvests seafood worth about $170 million a year.