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State leaders ask for federal assistance for Florida Fishery Industry after red tide

Posted: 10:16 PM, May 31, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-31 22:16:57-04

MATLACHA, Fla. -- People come to Florida to enjoy the water and our local seafood, but the industry has been badly hurt after this past red tide.

"There’s been a lot of financial heart ache for a lot of fisherman on our island and in our community, and we are actually on the verge of loosing our commercial industry in this area,” said Casey Streeter, Island Seafood Market.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimated this past red tide, which lasted from November of 2017 to February 2019, impacted more than 13,000 fisherman and lead to significant reductions in catch rates.

“The fishery was devastated by these water episodes, and we were petitioning to have a federal fisheries disaster initiated,” said Streeter.

And that petition made a splash, Governor Ron Desantis, Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Rick Scott sent letters outlining to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to declare a federal fishery resource disaster under what’s called the Magnuson- Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

“To see the damages that were done, and hopefully bring in the resources to the fisherman that are in need,” said Streeter.

“It was a big sigh of relief number one because we definitely need some help,” said Eddie Barnhill, owner, Got Ice.

Eddie Barnhill tells Fox 4, a couple of years ago he was pulling in 118,000 pounds of stone crab a season, this year that number is 13,000 pounds.

“We had to recreate the wheel I guess you could say, I’m a third generation fisherman here on pine island,” said Barnhill.

He traded in his stone crab boats for ice machines.

“I’m not going to quit fishing, it’s what I do, it’s what I love, the ice is just something to try to survive with,” said Barnhill.

Now that these letters are in the hands of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will review the fishery.

“It’s not going to happen overnight, but the fact that it’s in motion now, gives a lot of people a reason to hang on,” said Streeter.