Mitchell Roffer, an adjunct faculty member in Florida Institute of Technology’s Department of Ocean Engineering and Sciences, was among the witnesses testifying Aug. 10 at a field hearing in St. Petersburg convened by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The hearing was titled, “Threats Facing Florida’s Tourism Driven Economy.”
According to the committee, the hearing’s goal was to examine “tourism’s impact on Florida’s economy and threats to the industry.” Florida attracted 112 million visitors last year, which generated $108 billion for the state’s economy and supported 1.4 million jobs. Sen. Nelson heard from Roffer and other witnesses on some of the leading negative impacts to Florida’s tourism industry and ways to protect and bolster the economy.
During his testimony, which was developed with the help of Florida Tech oceanography professor George Maul, Roffer, who is president of Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecast Service and has a doctorate in biological oceanography, said the countries water-related tourism will remain vibrant only “if Florida continues to have clean air, clean water and healthy ecosystems, our true economic engine. Unfortunately, during the last few decades we have witnessed declines in the water quality and habitat which are impacting the fisheries and associated economies.”
Threats to Florida’s coastal ocean economy include oil and chemical pollution, poor water management in the state, the loss and pollution of groundwater, the degradation and loss of of fish and coral habitats, the dumping of treated and untreated wastewater into our canals, rivers, estuaries and oceans and climate change.