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A GOOD PLAN OR NOT? Dual-Purpose docks stir waters with local shrimpers

Posted at 10:52 PM, Apr 17, 2024

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — On the shores of San Carlos Island, just off Shrimp Boat Lane, the docks of the former Trico Shrimp Company look unchanged since Hurricane Ian.

That's soon to change since, on Tuesday, Lee County Commissioners voted to direct staff to budget for a new dual-purpose dock design for the waterfront land.

For over seven years, Mathew Shetters has captained a shrimp boat for Trico.

He says he's been catching shrimp since elementary school. To Shetters, shrimping is more than a livelihood—it's a lens through which he views the world.

"When I see those shrimp hit the deck, I look at quarters and dimes, and pennies," Shetters says.

Mathew Shetters on the shrimp boat that he captains

The proposed redesign might allow the county to use the docks to keep large barges for disaster response - disrupting regular operations.

"They can just tell us whoa whoa whoa, ya'll stop! We gotta bring all of our equipment in so ya'll gotta move y'all stuff out, and let us work here for three months, or five months, however long it may be," Shetters explained as he voiced concerns about the potential displacement.

Dennis Henderson, a former co-owner of Trico, disagrees.

Instead, he sees potential benefits in the dual use of the dock.

"The county can come in and whatever they needed to do I would be more than happy to even help them," Henderson said.

If emergency operations required the docks, Henderson says he'd find alternative docking arrangements.

"We'd do whatever needed to be done, if we could unload there, I doubt we could, but there are plenty of other ports," Henderson added.

However, not all share Henderson’s optimism. Christine Gala, another former officer at Trico, emphasized the disruption such changes could cause.

"If you're running a business and all of the sudden they come in and shut you down you know it just can't happen like that," Gala stated.

The land in question, owned by Lee County, is designated as a working waterfront, which restricts its use to water-dependent activities like commercial fishing or docking.

Aerial photo of previous operating location of Trico Shrimp, Matanza's pass bridge in the background.

Currently, the disaster recovery barges continue to operate from the Punta Rossa Dock near the Sanibel Causeway, a temporary solution set to continue into the next year.