While criticizing media coverage that he says raises doubts about the safety of Gulf seafood, Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson on Thursday also revealed that he has asked BP to pay $59 million over the next 10 years to test affected seafood for oil and chemical dispersants.
Bronson submitted the request along with a seafood testing plan. Even while a large area of the Gulf remains closed to fishing due to the oil spill, he said seafood from Florida remains safe to eat.
Cabinet members also pressed J. Thomas Cardwell, commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation, to urge banks to go easy on borrowers affected by the oil spill. Bronson said the seafood industry’s troubles will cause banks to feel the effects.
“The fishing industry of Florida is, in some cases, in a near-panic right now,” Bronson said. “We have made this disaster worse on television and everywhere else by indicating things are happening that are not happening. And the fishing industry is losing. Your banks are going to feel the pinch of these loans on these boats and businesses and restaurants and homes that people live in.”
Cardwell said he met with federal banking officials and members of the Florida Bankers Association last week in Pensacola to discuss concerns about the economic effects of the oil spill. He said Florida Panhandle tourism had dropped off during the region’s peak season.
Attorney General Bill McCollum said hotels, restaurants and others in the tourism industry are suffering because of the oil spill. He said banks should take into consideration the claims that businesses have against BP.
“They are going to get recovery” from BP, McCollum said. “There is no question in my mind.”
Later Thursday, Gov. Charlie Crist announced that BP will provide $7 million to the Northwest Florida Travel Council for tourism marketing and advertising. Crist said he responded by requesting an additional $43 million as part of the $50 million for marketing and advertising that BP rejected on June 30.
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