HERNANDO BEACH — Commercial fishers in this beleaguered waterfront community and around the state got some welcome news Friday.
In answer to their pleas for economic relief, Gov. Charlie Crist has extended the state's commercial license renewal period by 90 days, from July 1 to Sept. 30, because of the uncertainty and financial hardships caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
For Kathryn Birren, owner of five fishing boats and the Hernando Beach Seafood wholesale/retail seafood business, it means not having to somehow find nearly $10,000 she would need to renew multiple licenses and permits by June 30.
"I'm thrilled, "Birren said. "My husband and I have spent the past couple of days wondering if we're going to be able to stay in business. This helps, but it still may not be enough."
Earlier this week, Birren helped organize a rally on the docks behind her business in the hope of drawing attention to the plight of Hernando County's commercial fishing community, which has been crippled by falling prices because of fears about the safety of gulf seafood.
"The commercial fishing industry needs some time to regroup because of misperceptions that Florida's seafood has been affected by the oil spill,'' Crist said in a news release on Friday.
Birren said that delaying having to pay for licenses, which vary in price depending on the type of license, will help struggling fishermen. Particularly helpful, she said, is the temporary waiving of stone crab trap tags. Florida's stone crab harvesting season runs from Oct. 15 until May 15.
"Nobody knows if we're even going to have stone crab season this year," Birren said.
In addition to the temporary fee waiver, the governor also announced that the bay scallop season will open 12 days earlier this year. That means the first day of scallop season will be June 19.
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or 848-1435.