Category Archives: Gulf of Mexico

Louisiana’s crab bans spurred by changes in climate and habitat

South Louisiana’s blue crab population is on the decline, pummeled by environmental and man-made threats. Increased trapping, less rainfall, no recent hurricanes, wetlands loss, predators, oil spills, closing of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet Canal and river-water diversions have taken their tolls. In response, Louisiana’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission last summer decided to ban crabbing and trap use for thirty days, starting on February 20 of this year.,, The state’s diversions of Mississippi River water to fend off oil from the BP spill, and separately as a way to rebuild wetlands, have pushed crab larvae and babies into the sea where predators loom, Lively said. At this point, it’s unclear which factors are most to blame for a decline in the state’s blue crabs, Jeffrey Marx, LDWF marine biologist and crab program manager, said last week. Less rainfall and ongoing predation on crabs are negatives, he noted. Predators include red and black drum, sea catfish, sheepshead and spotted sea trout. (very interesting) Read the article here 17:47

Apalachicola Advocates, Fishermen Continue Fight For Water

At the end of a river system that feeds booming Atlanta, and farms throughout Georgia and Alabama, sits Apalachicola Bay. The Army Corps of Engineers decides how much water flows here, where the river meets the Gulf. For years, Florida has argued it’s not getting its fair share, and the Bay and surrounding Franklin County are struggling because of it. T.J. Ward is a third generation fisherman who works at his family’s business in downtown Apalach. Over the past ten years, he’s seen the lack of freshwater take its toll, in the form of oyster predators. “One of those are, they call them snails, but we call them oyster drills, the locals do. And they eat oysters. And they’re even cannibalistic, so when they run out of oysters they’ll eat themselves. I mean they’re devastating. That’s one thing that’s killed the end of the bay that our oyster company’s on,” Ward said. Audio report, continue reading the story here 10:15

Shrimp industry grant proposed

The Texas Shrimp Association may be in line for a $300,000 grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which will distribute a portion of the billions of dollars in RESTORE Act money generated by fines paid out by BP stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. The proposed grant is included in a draft project list of more than 200 Texas projects totaling $1.1 billion that were submitted for RESTORE Act funds. The list will go into creation of a draft “Multi-Year Implementation Plan,” which eventually will be posted in the Texas Register for a 45-day public comment period before a final MIP is developed. That document then will be submitted to the Treasury Department for final approval. In other words, the grant isn’t a done deal, though TSA Executive Director Andrea Hance is keeping her fingers crossed. TSA would use part of the money for marketing and promotion, part of it for consumer education and tourism — including shrimp tours for Winter Texans — and some of it for social media campaigns that market wild-caught Gulf shrimp directly to consumers as opposed to restaurants, she said.  Read the article here 08:53

Louisiana: Des Allemands crab fisherman says state closure is unfair

With a fast flick of his hand, Whitney Curole sent a large blue crab sailing into a white plastic basket as he sorted the last of the prized crustaceans at his Des Allemands dock operation. The crab flipped itself upright and extended its open claws in attack mode for a fight it obviously didn’t win. But Curole said he opposes the politics that he maintained are hurting his business as a commercial fisherman. Curole continued sorting the catch just in from a Houma crabber, delivered shortly before the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC) closed the season on Monday (Feb. 20) for 30 days. The move also came with a year round ban on harvesting immature female crabs for commercial sale. Curole and LWFC agree crab numbers are down, but they disagree on why. Reaching into a box full of crabs, he withdrew several crabs with numerous missing legs. “These legs were eaten by fish,” Curole said displaying a crab with all its legs gone. “You leave them overnight in the traps and it will be full of them.” Read the article here 09:50

Louisiana Regulators to Close Blue Crab Fishery for Thirty Days

Crabbing in Louisiana comes to an abrupt halt Sunday night when a state imposed 30-day prohibition goes into effect. In an effort to protect against over-harvesting Louisiana’s crab population, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is shutting it down for a month. Many crab fishermen fear for their livelihood. “Six to eight weeks of no paychecks from crabbing,” said crabber Alvin Royes.”Maybe more depending on the weather. Traps have to be in by midnight Sunday night.” For about 1,500 Louisiana crabbers, that’s it in a nutshell. All crab traps are being picked up and stacked. Sunday night, crab fishermen will be out of work for a while. The 30-day prohibition is not a surprise to Louisiana crab fishermen, even if it is to a lot of other people. Last year, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries determined too many crabs were being harvested and the crab population was getting low. New regulations were instituted including restrictions on the harvest of immature female blue crabs and the 30-day ban on crabbing, beginning the third Monday in February of 2017, 2018 and 2019. Continue reading the article here 11:52

Bully-net lobster fishermen can get new commercial status

A new Florida commercial lobster license for bully-netters will come with a “Respectful Bully Netting” outreach campaign. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission members on Feb. 8 approved creation of a new bully-net endorsement for people who have a commercial endorsement for lobster.“Conflicts between waterfront homeowners and bully-netters” was cited as one concern about expanding the commercial lobster industry to include the netting technique. The increased use of bully nets for commercial lobstering “allows opportunities for young or new fishers and preserves the culture of participation in the Keys commercial lobster fishery”. Continue reading the story here 14:45

Door-to-door shrimp salesmen busted shorting customers

Most door-to-door shrimp purveyors volunteer to remove the heads from the crustaceans after a customer agrees to a sale. For many, that’s not just a nice thing to do. It’s so that the consumer can’t check the weight to see that he or she has been shorted. Complaints from customers about not getting what they paid for led to the bust of two door-to-door shrimp salesmen in Calcasieu Parish in the last week, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The department said its agents arrested Kenny Menard, 45, of Rayne, and Jessie Dupuis Jr., 43, of Lafayette, and charged them with theft by fraudulent sales, selling shrimp without a retail seafood license and failing to maintain records. Read the rest here 11:38

Council for Sustainable Fishing – First came ‘sea lords’ and now ‘snapper barons.’

About a year ago AL.com did an investigative report on the Gulf of Mexico commercial red snapper catch share program in which it called the top share holders ‘sea lords’ and those fishermen who had to pay them for the right to catch red snapper ‘serfs.’ Last week, WVUE-TV in New Orleans did a series of investigative reports on this same catch share program, one of which was entitled “’Snapper barons’ raking in riches from public resource.” These reports highlight what catch shares are all about — creating economic winners and losers, not fishery sustainability, with most fishermen and fishing communities on the losing end. A 2013 report by the Center for Investigative Reporting provides estimates that as many as 18,000 fishing jobs were lost and 3,700 vessels were no longer fishing in areas that had catch share programs. Read the press release here 11:18

Fisherman and landowners alleging harm from waste pits in lawsuit against owners of San Jacinto River superfund site

Rick Kornele and Charles Rayburn fished and crabbed as small boys on a sand bar near a popular boat ramp on the San Jacinto River- a site today blocked off by an imposing chain-link fence that’s plastered with warning signs in three languages. Rayburn remembers walking barefoot along the sand and wading into the murky water to catch crab. Kornele’s family often drove to the water’s edge in a station wagon and spent days long lazy days camping in the shadow of the highway bridge. As adults, both fished, boated and bought land near the river they loved. It wasn’t until 2005 that both men separately discovered that their favorite 1960s childhood fishing hole sat next to hidden pits where a Pasadena paper mill and its partners had deposited sludge laced with cancer-causing dioxins and PCBs. Continue reading the story here 16:22

Hooked Up!!! Sea lords and the secret votes that made them rich

The votes helped create the system that now allows 50 businesses and fishermen to control 81 percent of the nation’s commercial red snapper allocation. Those fishermen can make a total of $23 million every year. And the government gets nothing in return from the fishermen. “This is a public asset,” Congressman Garret Graves says. “You and I own this. The public owns this. You know, people always talk about [how] government needs to run like a business. Could you ever imagine a business saying, ‘Oh, here’s our inventory, and it’s free! You come in a grocery store, you take whatever you want.’ The vote predates Graves’ term in Washington. But last decade, Congress helped orchestrate it. The feds wanted to start what’s called an IFQ program, short for “individual fishing quota”. Fishermen would get an allocation to fish the entire year. Congress required three votes – first by a little-known public body called the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council, an 11-member body that’s primarily appointed by the five Gulf states.  After the Gulf Council vote, Congress also required two votes by the commercial fishermen who already were permitted to fish for red snapper in the Gulf. And those are the votes that the federal government won’t let us see. Video, read the story here 11:09

North Pacific council director a possibility for Assistant Administrator position at NMFS replacing Eileen Sobeck

Chris Oliver, the executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council for the past 16 years, didn’t ask for a consideration as the new assistant administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service; rather, the most powerful fishing industry voices in the nation’s most profitable region asked. He doesn’t know if the new administration will offer it or if he’d want it if it did. Still, looking at his history, knowledge and reputation, he seems in many ways a natural fit. Oliver said when it became known that the current administrator, Eileen Sobeck, won’t be staying with the new administration, parts of the fishing universe aligned. In the North Pacific and elsewhere, catch share systems are a contentious issue; Oliver said in an interview he’s already had fisheries stakeholders from other regions probing for what his intent would be with their respective fisheries. Oliver’s answer sums up both his attitude and in part that of the new administration. “It’s not my call,” he said. “What makes sense in the North Pacific…may not make sense in New England, or in the Gulf of Mexico. Read the story here 10:47

Hooked Up!!! Catch Share Politics – ‘Sea Lords’ hook a congressional reformer

Steve Southerland agrees: He was something of a threat to some commercial fishermen. The former Florida congressman led the effort to change a federal program (catch shares) –  unknown to most taxpayers – that allows a handful of businesses and fishermen to make millions off a government resource, creating what some fisherman call “lords of the sea.” The government essentially decides who will be a successful commercial fisherman and who will not.” And it doesn’t matter how hard you work,” Southerland says. “It doesn’t matter, you know, how much money you have to… That you’ve borrowed. It’s all based on a philosophy. And if you believed in that philosophy, then you win.” Southerland took to the floor of Congress, trying to make changes. In response, the same commercial fishermen profiting off this government resource poured tens of thousands of dollars into the campaign account of Southerland’s congressional opponent. Those same fishermen contributed additional money to a political action committee called Ocean Champions that also went after Southerland. “I think that it was a group of fishermen that worked towards that,” says Galveston, Texas commercial fisherman Buddy Guindon. “Mostly guys out of Florida. I didn’t have much to do with it. I contributed a little money to them.” Video,  Read the story here 08:25

Everglades National Park Superintendent suspends new fee after outcry

Following pushback from some local professional fishing guides, Everglades National Park Superintendent Pedro Ramos has suspended a new rule that would have required a per person fee for vessels entering federal waters in Florida Bay. Late last month, a park email was circulated that informed a handful of Upper Keys guides that enforcement of an entrance fee for people on vessels would begin in April. This included customers aboard a commercial boat, recreational anglers on a personal boat and kayakers. The park’s general management plan, which became effective last year after over a decade in the making, said that vessels in the future could be charged a per person fee. It didn’t have a specific date, though. Last month was the first many became aware of the plan to enforce it.  Currently, an entrance fee is paid only by those coming to the park by land.. Read the story here 11:32

Zurik: ‘Snapper barons’ raking in riches from public resource

On the tip of Louisiana’s coast, Dean Blanchard built his seafood business from nothing. “It’s what made America great, is hard-working, good people,” Blanchard says. But, he tells us, a few miles away from Grand Isle – on waters owned by taxpayers – a multi-million-dollar government handout functions like the opposite of the capitalism that helps put food on his table. “When Russia and China just let certain people do certain things, what do we call them? We call them communists. I mean, I don’t see no difference.” Blanchard is criticizing a federal program, unknown to most taxpayers, that allows a handful of businesses and fishermen to make millions off a government resource – creating what some fishermen call “Lords of the Sea.” But there’s more. Many of the shareholders don’t even fish. We spoke with Galveston’s Buddy Guindon, third on the list, who can make $1.4 million. “It’s a great asset,”,, You won’t read this stuff in a NOAA report!  Click here to watch the video and read the story along with interactive Top 15 IFQ Shareholder info graphs. 20:54

HOOKED UP! PART II: Gulf Council chief talks about IFQ’s

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council manages the fishery resources in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s one of eight regional fishery management councils in the United States.  The Gulf Council essentially manages the fishery from the nine-mile mark out to the 200-mile limit.  “Before the IFQ, we tried a variety of ways to address the race for fish that was taking place,” says Dr. Roy Crabtree, regional administrator for the Gulf Council. “We had a limited commercial quota for red snapper. The fishermen were catching it up as quick as they could. They were flooding the market with fish  Fishery was closed most of the year, so we didn’t have year-round production. And we had safety-at-sea issues. Because fishermen were fishing in unsafe sea conditions. And we were having overruns of quota. Crabtree says the IFQ program was designed largely to address these problems. The article continues here 18:00

HOOKED UP: Red snapper catch share allotment a “retirement plan” for many shareholders

The most controversial part of the Red Snapper IFQ program may be the part that allows shareholders to sell their yearly allocation.  It essentially turns some fishermen into businessmen. Our research has revealed about 120 shareholders – 37 percent of the whole – sell their entire allocation each year.  It allows the shareholders to make tens, and in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Galveston commercial fisherman Buddy Guindon defends these fishermen ”It’s his retirement,” he tells us. Slidell commercial fisherman Tommy Williams thinks some of the program needs to be tweaked, but he thinks these shares provide security for retirement fishermen “They worked for the shares,” Williams says. “They were out here, getting their hands cut, cut by fish, bit by fish, baiting hooks.  That is their retirement because most fishermen don’t have a 401(k). This is their 401(k).” FOX 8 News sent letters to the fishermen who appeared to be selling their yearly allocations.  We heard back from many of them. Read the story here 09:20

Newly discovered illegal reef off the coast of Lee County impacting shrimpers

An alert for one of Southwest Florida’s biggest industries after an illegal, manmade reef was discovered off the coast of Lee County. A shrimp net worth almost $2,000 was found tangled up in the illegal manmade reef. Fishermen discovered it about 9 miles off the shore of Fort Myers Beach – a place where many drop their nets to catch shrimp. Captain Mark Grunwale with Erickson and Jensen Shrimp Company spends weeks at a time fishing for shrimp with some pretty expensive equipment. “We know where a lot of them are at, but we didn’t know where this one was at,” Capt. Grunwale said. On Friday, divers from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office recovered a shrimp net caught in the illegal reef that not only impacted shrimpers but marine life as well. “There will be no knowing how it got there. This particular site is right in the middle of shrimp trolling lanes when they are coming out of Fort Myers Beach.” The net is believed to belong to a shrimp company out of Texas. Video, read the story here 19:38

Louisiana crabber busted twice with too many young females

A Violet commercial crabber failed to heed a warning about harvesting immature female crabs , and that resulted in a citation that could put him in jail for up to 60 days, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reported Thursday. On Jan. 20, enforcement agents say they found Allan Campo, 51, to be in violation of the state’s new crabbing regulations, and issued him a written warning. Less than two weeks later, however, agents were on patrol in Plaquemines Parish’s Shell Lake when they observed Campo actively crabbing, the department said. The agents stopped Campo, and found him to be in possession of two crates of crabs holding an illegal amount of immature female crabs, according to the department. Under new regulations, no more than 2 percent of a commercial crabber’s take may be immature females. Read the story here 10:48

Price spikes for jumbo shrimp blamed on Gulf of Mexico dead zone

Every spring and summer when the low-oxygen dead zone forms off Louisiana’s coastline, the price of jumbo shrimp briefly spikes, affecting Gulf of Mexico fishers, consumers and seafood markets, according to a new study published Monday (Jan. 30) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And the price for smaller shrimp generally falls. The positive effect of the price increase on jumbo shrimp for Gulf commercial shrimpers are fleeting, however. That’s because the rise often triggers increased imports of large shrimp from foreign producers, including farm-raised shrimp, which quickly drive down prices. The dead zone is an area of low oxygen — with levels of oxygen at or below 2 parts per million — that scientists define as hypoxia. Freshwater rich in nitrogen and phosphorus from Midwest farms and from nutrient-rich sewage from cities and rural areas enters the Gulf each spring and summer, forming a freshwater layer over the Gulf’s saltier sea water. Read the full story here 18:41

COASTAL CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

Several private anglers and the Coastal Conservation Association, a group representing private anglers (collectively, CCA), appeal the district court’s summary judgment dismissal of their lawsuit, which challenged Amendment 40 to the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan and the Final Rule implementing that amendment. Because we find that Amendment 40 is consistent with its organic statute and was properly devised and implemented, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court. This dispute centers on the management of the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. Read the complaint here 09:28

Wakulla Fishermen Losing Traditional Harvest Areas, Call for End to Leasing

Fishermen in Wakulla County are concerned about the rise in the amount of leases on their waters. The leases provide boundaries as to where fishermen can and cannot go to get fish. Poles and barriers indicate assigned zones. Some fishermen say their boats have been damaged by them, claiming poor visibility due to a lack of lighting and the tide changing sea levels. Fishermen say the state keeps giving leases out, which zones off territory they’ve used for years. “It’s killing all of us up here,” said Albert Hartsfield, vice president of the Wakulla Commercial Fishermen’s Association (WCFA). “They’ve blocked up channels and everything.” “Don’t put my guys out of business,” said John Taylor, president of the WCFA. “They need this water to make their livelihood.”  Video, Read the rest here 09:01

Fisherman facing life in prison after finding 20 kilo’s of cocaine at sea, setting up a distribution ring

The question is often light-heartedly posited among friends in coastal towns of what one would do if he were to discover a bail of washed-up narcotics. Local fisherman Thomas Zachary Breeding, 32, chose to distribute for sale the 20 kilograms of cocaine he found – and he advises you not do the same. “This changed my life and way of thinking and also made me aware of some of the dangers that can be found off shore in the Gulf,” Breeding wrote recently in a letter to The News Herald from the Washington County Jail, where he is being held to await his sentence for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. “I would like to let the public know the dangers and what not to do if this situation comes about.” Breeding was one of five individuals arrested in summer 2016 on charges of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. The group was indicted by a federal grand jury in September after Breeding found 20 kilograms of cocaine – the equivalent of about 45 pounds – while out at sea and set up a distribution network with the other people. Read the story here Another article, click here 16:16

Indicted: Bay seafood distributors charged for ‘fishy’ sales

A federal grand jury has indicted the owners of a local seafood distribution company on charges involving the illegal sale of red drum and spotted sea trout to Louisiana businesses in 2014 and 2015. Lonnie M. Ray  and Shelley H. Ray face the charges in U.S. District Court in Gulfport. The indictment, which was made public Thursday, shows both face charges of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, which makes it illegal to sell fish taken in violation of state laws and to cross state lines with those fish. Both face two counts each of Lacey Act violations. Lonnie Ray also faces a charge alleging he illegally possessed a short-barrel shotgun on June 17, 2015.Their trial is set on a court calendar that starts March 6.  Read the rest here 15:47

81 False killer whales die off South Florida coast

81 false killer whales have died after stranding themselves off the South Florida coast. NOAA announced the grim news on Monday afternoon. NOAA initially reported that 95 false killer whales were stranded in South Florida. Then on Monday afternoon, NOAA Fish Southeast tweeted that 81 whales had died and also said the whales were at a remote location off of Hog Key in the Everglades. One whale was seen alive on Monday and 13 others are unaccounted for, NOAA Fish Southeast said on Twitter on Monday afternoon. The National Park Service has closed the area around the whale stranding location. The National Park Service is asking that aircraft not fly over the area and that boats stay away from the area. Read the rest here 15:14

Coppertail releases beer that yes, seriously, has stone crab in it

Offering further evidence that there’s nothing craft brewers won’t incorporate into a beer, Tampa’s own Coppertail Brewing marked Friday the 13th with the release of its Captain Jack’s Stone Crab Stout, an “unconventionally flavored” brew that pays tribute to both Florida’s annual stone crab harvesting season and the anglers that brave the slightly colder winter waves in search of those delicious crustacean claws. And yeah, Captain Jack’s is literally made with stone crabs. What’s more, a portion of sales proceeds will be donated to the Florida Keys Commercial Fisherman’s Association “to promote sustainable fishing, and to help preserve the way of life of Florida fishermen.” Read the story here 12:16

Turtle Excluder Devices: Public meeting on shrimping regulation gets little feedback

A new federal regulation on Coast shrimpers may add more stress on an already stressed industry. Wednesday’s meeting discussed expanding the use of Turtle Excluder Devices to shallow water skimmer nets. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meeting drew more than 50 fishermen. However, only one was willing to talk about the potential impact of the new TED regulation. “If this is implemented, you will lose more fishermen,” said Thau Bu, director of the Mississippi Coalition for Vietnamese American Fisherfolks and Families. “Livelihoods threatened, families facing serious hardship. We lose so much of the cultural traditional heritage and value the fishing communities have contributed for hundreds of years.” Bu was also upset that Vietnamese families in attendance didn’t get enough time to translate the information to even understand what was facing them. So, she spoke for them. Video, read the story here 12:02

Coast Guard responds to fishing vessel taking on water 50 miles south of Grand Isle

The Coast Guard is responding to a vessel taking on water approximately 50 miles south of Grand Isle, Louisiana, Monday. Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector New Orleans received a report at 1:58 a.m. of an 85-foot fishing vessel (F/V Ocean 1)with three people aboard taking on water approximately 50 miles south of Grand Isle. Watchstanders at Sector New Orleans directed the launch of a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew from Coast Guard Station Grand Isle, an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans, and an HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crew from Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama. The helicopter aircrew arrived on scene at 3:36 a.m. and lowered a de-watering pump and a rescue swimmer. The 45-foot response boat transferred coast guard personnel and pumps to the vessel. The HC-144 Ocean Sentry crew, the 45 foot response boat, and the offshore supply vessel Joanne Morrison are currently on scene. Link 16:04

NMFS Seeks Public Comment for Proposed Rule to Require Turtle Excluder Device Use for Skimmer Trawls, Pusher-Head Trawls, and Wing Nets (Butterfly Trawls)

In an effort to strengthen sea turtle conservation efforts, NOAA Fisheries NMFS is seeking comments on a newly proposed rule.  The rule, if implemented, would require all skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing nets (butterfly trawls) to use turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in their nets.  A TED is a device that allows sea turtles to escape from trawl nets.  The purpose of the proposed rule is to aid in the protection and recovery of listed sea turtle populations by reducing incidental bycatch and mortality of sea turtles in the southeastern U.S. shrimp fisheries. We have scheduled six public hearings in January 2017 to solicit public comment on the proposed rule.  The dates, times, and locations of the hearings are as follows: Larose, LA – January 9, 2017, 4pm-6pm, Larose Regional Park and Civic Center, 307 East 5th Street, Larose, LA 70373. Gretna, LA – January 10, 2017, 12pm-2pm, Belle Chasse, LA – January 10, 2017, 4pm-6pm Biloxi, MS – January 11, 2017, 4pm-6pm, Bayou La Batre, AL – January 12, 2017, 10am-12pm Morehead City, NC – January 18, 2017, 12pm-2pm Read the bulletin here 09:33

Louisiana: Launch of new shrimp boat a testament of faith

Some people have lost faith in the traditions and possibilities of the shrimp industry here in the Bayou Region. But Chad and Angela Portier and the rest of their family are not among those. They proved their faith – in more than one way – with the Tuesday launch of the Louisiana shrimp fleet’s newest addition, the 72-foot trawler they named “Jesus Lives.” The boat rolled into the waters of Bayou Petit Caillou with a dignified slide, a testament to the family’s tradition and tenacity. Chad Portier learned to build boats from his late father, Russell, whose name on the bayou is legendary. During the project Chad taught his sons, Chad Jr., 15, and Jenson Engebretson, 19, how to build alongside him. It was for the boys, the veteran shrimper said, that the project happened at all. Watch the launch video, and read the story here 15:20

Fire extinguished on Renaissance Offshore LLC oil production platform in the Gulf, no sign of pollution

A fire broke out on an oil production platform in the Gulf of Mexico early Thursday (Jan. 5), forcing four workers to evacuate by lifeboat before the blaze was extinguished. There were no injuries and inspectors found no sign of pollution, authorities said. The blaze was reported about 2:30 a.m. on a platform about 80 miles south of Grand Isle, Louisiana, and was extinguished nearly four hours later, the Coast Guard said in a statement. The four workers were rescued by the crew of the 130-foot Mary Wyatt Milano, a supply vessel, the Coast Guard said. They were flown to a hospital in Houma to be evaluated, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said in a statement. Read the story here 11:05

BREAKING! Fire Burns on Oil Platform in Gulf of Mexico

The Coast Guard says it’s responding to a fire on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. A Coast Guard news release says the fire was reported around 2:30 a.m. Thursday on an oil platform about 80 miles south of Grand Isle, Louisiana. The Coast Guard says four people aboard the platform evacuated and were rescued by a supply vessel. No injuries have been reported. Four vessels are fighting the fire and the cause is under investigation. Updated click here  07:04

Red tide clears off Collier County, but stone crab catch still down

The red tide lingering on Florida’s Gulf coast last fall and this winter has cleared up in Collier County. Fish kills were reported in December in Collier, but the algae blooms that bring thousands of dead fish to shore and cause beachgoers to cough and sneeze have, for the most part, stayed north in Pinellas and Sarasota counties, according to a report Friday from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Clearer water would be good news for the price of stone crabs and for local stone crab fisherman, who were hammered early this season by a red tide that followed Hurricane Matthew in October. The fewer crabs caught, the higher the market price for Southwest Florida’s most popular seafood. Catch totals are still down in Goodland compared with typical years, said Damas Kirk, of Kirk Fish Co. “Red tide isn’t showing so much anymore, but I think it’s done some damage,” Kirk said. “I think the stone crabs are having a bit of a food supply issue and are starving somewhat.” Read the story here 15:50

MDMR officials oppose proposed changes to NOAA shark regulations

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources oppose proposals by NOAA Fisheries that would increase shark regulations for recreational and commercial fishermen. NOAA proposes recreational and commercial fishermen required to complete an online shark identification and fishing regulation training course and use circle hooks when fishing for or landing sharks. DMR Executive Director Jamie Miller recently sent a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service. Miller believes the NOAA’s plan would “place punitive regulations on shark species that assessments have indicated healthy stocks which impact both recreational and commercial sectors.” Read the rest here 10:35

Governor John Bel Edwards Appoints Jack Montoucet as Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Chief

Acadiana lawmaker Jack Montoucet has been appointed secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries by Gov. John Bel Edwards. Montoucet, 69, represents District 42 in the statehouse, which includes Acadia and Lafayette parishes. He has been a fierce ally of Edwards in the House. He officially takes over Jan. 16. Patrick Banks, assistant secretary of the office of fisheries, will serve as interim secretary until then. Montoucet will replace former Secretary Charlie Melancon, who was forced out by the administration. Melancon, a former congressman, clashed with recreational fishermen and U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, over fisheries management since taking over as secretary. He also had a fractious relationship with some lawmakers for changes within the agency. Read the story here 11:23

Shrimp net-making is still alive in Bayou La Batre

Steve Sprinkle still makes his shrimp nets in Bayou La Batre by hand, an art that has all but disappeared from the American scene. His small shop is full of character and age-old bits and pieces of what is needed for the ancient craft. Inside, you might spot Sprinkle seated and driving needles around green string over and over. Some things have to be made by hand if they are to stand the test of time and the test of the rough, deep Gulf. “It started in the early 1900s when rowboats would drop a net and catch shrimp; then they came out with combustion engines and started towing the net through the water to pick up the shrimp,” Sprinkle said. “My family was on Dauphin Island over 200 years ago. My great-grandfather would shrimp on his own feet wading in the water and pulling a net with his hands.” More images, video, read the rest here 08:50

Coast Guard medevacs seasick, unresponsive man from fishing vessel in the Gulf

The Coast Guard medevaced a 28-year-old male aboard the fishing vessel Captain David 40 nautical miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana, Saturday. The Eighth Coast Guard District watchstanders received a report at 3:16 p.m. that Andrew Carl had been suffering from seasickness and had become unresponsive. Watchstanders from Coast Guard Sector New Orleans were notified and launched a Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans MH-65 Dolphin aircrew at 4:26 p.m. The MH-65 aircrew arrived on scene at 5:22 p.m. and transported Carl to Louisiana State University Hospital in New Orleans at 7:46 p.m. He was reported in stable condition but still unresponsive.  Link 09:34

Shrimp fishermen take issue with proposed TED rule

Shrimp boats that fish offshore already use TEDs. Turtle excluder devices use metal grates that prevent turtles from getting caught in the nets. The new rule would apply to skimmer nets, which generally shrimp in shallower waters. “It would affect about half of our fleet, which currently uses skimmer nets. They’ve been having to adhere to tow time restrictions. Now, they’ll have to use TEDs instead,” said Rick Burris, who directs the DMR Shrimp and Crab Bureau. The proposed regulation to expand the use of TEDs is the result of a federal lawsuit filed by a nonprofit conservation group called Oceana, which blames commercial fishermen for killing hundreds of sea turtles each year. “Certainly they’re being singled out. Oceana has had the shrimp industry as a target for a long time. Particularly as it relates to turtles,” said David Veal, executive director of the American Shrimp Processors Association. Veal says the statistics cited by the conservation group are suspect. Video, read the rest here 08:14

NMFS Seeks Public Comment-Proposed Rule to Require Turtle Excluder Device Use for Skimmer Trawls, Pusher-Head Trawls, and Wing Nets (Butterfly Trawls)

More shrimp fishermen would have to use nets equipped with turtle escape hatches, to prevent sea turtle deaths, under proposed new federal rules. The National Marine Fisheries Service wants to require more shrimp fishermen to use “turtle excluder devices.” The devices are metal grates that allow turtles to escape the boats’ nets. The fisheries service announced the proposed rules Thursday. They will be subject to a public comment process through mid-February. Thursday was the deadline for the federal government to propose regulations to protect turtles under a settlement with the conservation nonprofit Oceana. Oceana sued the government in April 2015, arguing that government estimates indicate that more than 500,000 sea turtles get caught in shrimp nets each year, and more than 53,000 of them die. Link  NMFS Seeks Public Comment for Proposed Rule Click here  11:39

UPDATED: Charlie Melancon resigns from post as secretary of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Melancon spent most of his brief tenure either pissing people off or running another typical Louisiana corruption scheme. The biggest issue that has arisen in Melancon’s tenure was his opposition to the state taking over red snapper fisheries from the Federal government. Why would the state be opposed taking over red snapper jurisdiction from the Feds? Because as Scott wrote back in September, a JBE (Gov. John Bel Edwards) donor would be hurt. Read the story here  About that Sealord donor!  Charlie Melancon has resigned Wednesday as secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “Charlie and I have agreed that we should move the agency in a different direction,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday. Read the rest here 09:44

Lee County deputies hook 2 fishermen for ‘gillnetting’

Marine deputies arrested two men during an operation aimed at curbing an illegal fishing method known as gillnetting. On Tuesday, deputies say they stopped a commercial fishing boat in Pine Island Sound that was in the process of hauling back its nets. During the stop, deputies say they found fishing nets with oversized mesh, making them gill nets. Gill nets have been prohibited in Florida waterways since 1996 in an effort to protect inshore fish like mullet, redfish, pompano and snook. The fisherman, Wayne Henderson, 25,  and Ryan Thompson, 23, were arrested. The Bokeelia men face 29 misdemeanor charges combined. Link 14:33

Thousands of Invisible Oil Spills Are Destroying The Gulf

Hurricane Ivan would not die. After traveling across the Atlantic Ocean, it stewed for more than a week in the Caribbean, fluctuating between a Category 3 and 5 storm while battering Jamaica, Cuba, and other vulnerable islands. And as it approached the US Gulf Coast, it stirred up a massive mud slide on the sea floor. The mudslide created leaks in 25 undersea oil wells, snarled the pipelines leading from the wells to a nearby oil platform, and brought the platform down on top of all of it. And a bunch of the mess—owned by Taylor Energy—is still down there, covered by tons of silty sediment. Also, twelve years later, the mess is still leaking. The Taylor Energy site will continue to leak for the next century,,, While the Taylor Energy spill is the worst case scenario, it’s not the US’s only low-profile leaker. Read the story here 12:57

Marathon fisherman pinched for untagged lobster traps, bad bouy charges

fishbust-lobstertrapsA Marathon commercial fisherman faces more than 130 conservation counts after being charged with fishing illegal lobster traps. Franklin Garcia Jimenez, 40, was arrested before dawn Tuesday as part of a trap-tag case filed by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers. Garcia is charged with “fishing more than 50 working, untagged traps,” agency information Officer Bobby Dube said. FWC Investigator Danielle Munkelt and Officer Adam Garrison also filed counts accusing Garcia of using buoys that were painted with the wrong colors and buoys that do not meet legal size requirements. All of the 136 counts are misdemeanors. Garcia posted a $68,000 bond and was released from the Monroe County jail Thursday. Read the rest here 20:45

Tiger Shark Caught 10 Years To the Day After Being Tagged

Fishermen sometimes think they can tell when a fish they’ve hooked has been caught before. Maybe it fights harder, or tries every trick in the book to shake the hook loose, but it’s hard to know for sure. Except when surf fisherman Zach Wolk reeled in an 11-foot, 5-inch female tiger shark at Cape San Blas in northwestern Florida back in October; he knew for sure because of the embedded tag. What he didn’t know, until later, was that he’d caught the tiger shark 10 years to the day that it was first tagged in the Gulf of Mexico – Oct. 25, 2006. The information came courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Wolk jotted down the shark’s tag number, and, after taking a few photos for posterity and releasing the creature back into the Gulf, sent the info off to NOAA. Photos, read the rest here 09:47

Georgia-Florida water fight now in hands of special master, Supreme Court to decide

scales_of_justice_2A month long trial aimed at settling a high-stakes water dispute between Georgia and Florida ended Thursday with a special master imploring both sides to negotiate a settlement. Special master Ralph Lancaster reminded both parties that there’s much to be lost by booming metropolitan Atlanta or by residents of tiny Apalachicola, Florida. “Please settle this blasted thing,” Lancaster said. “I can guarantee you that at least one of you is going to be unhappy with my recommendation — and perhaps both of you.” Florida blames the booming Atlanta metropolitan area and agriculture in Georgia for causing low river flows that have imperiled fisheries in Apalachicola Bay. Georgia contends there’s not enough evidence to support drastic action that could imperil the state’s economy. The lawsuit played out for a month with dozens of witnesses and hundreds of exhibits in Portland, Maine’s largest city, more than 1,000 miles from the disputed watershed. Georgia’s attorney, Craig Primis, and Florida’s attorney, Phil Perry, declined to comment after Lancaster implored them to return to the negotiating table. Read the story here 10:27

Threatened Catch

It’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving. And in case you’re tired of turkey, we have a helping of shrimp and a few questions. You may not think much about how the seafood gets to your plate.But the question of who’s catching it and where is at the center of a global controversy. To understand why, we head south to the Louisiana bayou. It’s where an industry that survived Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill is finding itself threatened with extinction by foreign competition. These fishermen could be Shrimpers Lost… and theirs could be a lesson for us all. Today we’re going shrimping in Venice, Louisiana. Acy Cooper is our guide. Sharyl Attkisson: How important is the shrimping business to your personally? Acy Cooper: It’s everything to me. You know, my family does it. My dad’s 80 years old, he still fishes. And my two boys has entered the business, and my daughter she married a fisherman. Louisiana’s shrimp industry has been a family affair for more than a century. Video, read the rest here 16:04

A father and son in St. Bernard Parish have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving

father-son-thanksgivingThey said they almost died after their shrimp boat sank. After being stranded for hours, they were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard when another boater called for help. WDSU obtained video shot by the Coast Guard of the moment Daniel Scott and his stepfather, Joseph Mitchell, were rescued on Lake Borgne in Hopedale Saturday. “I broke down night before last after we got home,” Mitchell said. “I cried and I cried thinking about losing my son’s life.” The two were out shrimping. Winds picked up, the waves started crashing and the boat started sinking. “In a matter of seconds, Jo, my stepdad said, ‘Grab the life preservers,’ which we did,” Scott said. “I climbed out the window pulled him out the window. By that time the boat was under and we climbed up and hung out for about five hours and realized there is nobody out there to help us.” Video, read the story here 17:23

Coast Guard rescues three Gulf fishermen from sunken vessel

The Coast Guard rescued three people from a sunken fishing vessel approximately 35 miles southwest of Cape San Blas, Florida, Wednesday. Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Mobile received a mayday call on VHF channel 16 from the crew of the Marion J, a 38-foot fishing vessel, at 1:44 a.m. explaining that their vessel was taking on water. Sector Mobile received a call from a crewmember’s girlfriend who told watchstanders that there were three people aboard the vessel, and the boat was approximately 35 miles southwest of Cape San Blas. The fishing vessel sunk and the crew boarded a life raft. The MH-60 crew located the people in a life raft, hoisted them at 4:40 a.m. and transported them to Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater to emergency medical services in stable condition. link 12:35

Boat captain arrested in lobster case

fwc-logoA Marathon commercial fisherman wanted by state wildlife officers for allegedly fishing for lobster with untagged traps turned himself in Thursday after returning from Cuba. Ricardo Hernandez, 52, faces 71 misdemeanor conservation violations. Earlier this month, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers issued arrest warrants for Hernandez and his mates after surveilling their fishing boat for two months, said FWC Officer Bobby Dube. When the warrants were issued, FWC officers discovered he was in Cuba. Mate Juan Miguel Exposito-Carralero, 46, was also charged with 71 misdemeanor counts. He was arrested last week. Hernandez returned from Cuba recently and turned himself in at the jail, said FWC Capt. David Dipre. The case marks a shift in how some poachers are reacting to the FWC as well as the Florida Keys Commercial Fishing Association’s efforts to quelch trap robbing — they moved to fishing with untagged traps.  Read the rest here 09:13

Jewell Announces Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Plan for 2017-2022

jewell3_small-jpg-306x313After considering more than 3.3 million public comments and holding 36 public meetings, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Abigail Hopper today released the final plan to guide future energy development for the Nation’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for 2017-2022. The plan takes a balanced approach to best meet the nation’s energy needs by including areas offshore with high resource potential and mature infrastructure while protecting regions with critical ecological resources. The Proposed Final Program offers 11 potential lease sales in four planning areas – 10 sales in the portions of three Gulf of Mexico Program Areas that are not under moratorium and one sale off the coast of Alaska in the Cook Inlet Program Area.Areas off the Atlantic coast are not included in this program. After an extensive public input process, the lease sale that was proposed in the Draft Proposed Program in the Mid- and South Atlantic area was removed during the earlier Proposed Program stage of the process due to current market dynamics, strong local opposition and conflicts with competing commercial and military ocean uses. Read the press release here   16:32

Trump victory brings hope for shrimpers

570418_1Roger Schmall’s shrimp boat engine lay in pieces on his deck. After the last one, which cost $35,000 came apart after only one trip out to sea, he’s decided to rebuild one himself to make sure it’s done right. Engines usually last 8 to 10 years, but he got a bad one, he said. He’s just got one boat these days, the Kayden Nicole, so his livelihood is tied to a working engine. Schmall’s spent the last 34 years working in the industry, and one of the few left of his ilk. Schmall is one of many local shrimpers who were hit hard when the U.S. began opening up to international trade through deals like the North American Trade Act (NAFTA), passed in 1994. During his campaign and in his 100 day plan which he outlined in his speech at Gettysburg in October, President Elect Donald Trump pledged to withdraw, or at least substantially change, some of the U.S.’s deals with other countries. Read the story here 10:03

Wanted fisherman fled to Cuba

Spiny lobsterA Marathon trap fisherman accused of using dozens of untagged traps apparently fled to Cuba following a two-month investigation into illegal lobster fishing, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the State Attorney’s Office.  FWC officers served a warrant on Nov. 4 after surveilling the vessel, said FWC officer Bobby Dube.  In all, 19 untagged traps were fished, according to the FWC. Some traps were also improperly numbered, records state. A mate aboard the vessel — Juan Miguel Exposito-Carralero, 46 — was charged with 71 misdemeanor counts of fishing illegal traps when FWC officers converged on the vessel after it was returning to port, said Assistant State Attorney Christina Cory. The captain that the FWC had been targeting, Ricardo Hernandez, 52, was not on the vessel at the time and happened to be in Cuba, Dube said. It does not appear he fled, but he left before the warrant was served, Cory added.  The case marks a shift in how some poachers are reacting to the FWC as well as the Florida Keys Commercial Fishing Association’s efforts to quelch trap robbing, said the latter association’s executive director Bill Kelly. Read the story here 08:22

Coast Guard medevacs skipper from fishing boat 94 miles west of John’s Pass

fv-swordfish-medevacThe Coast Guard medevacked a 51-year-old man Thursday from a commercial fishing boat 94 miles west of John’s Pass. Rescued was Randall Lauser from Largo. At 10:40 a.m. watch standers from Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg received a call via VHF-FM marine band radio channel 16 from a crew member aboard the commercial fishing boat Swordfish. Lauser, the captain of the boat, suffered a hand injury and was in need of emergency medical assistance.  A flight surgeon was notified and recommended Lauser be medevacked. Link watch video here 08:37

Oyster reef now closed after reopening for first time in 54 years

cwl3cs7xyaegnra_1478778207963_6994443_ver1-0Officials with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources announced the Biloxi Bay oyster reef was closed for fishing beginning Wednesday (Nov. 9) due to excessive localized rainfall. The closure was announced for the V “A” area that includes Biloxi Bay and Shearwater reefs.  Biloxi Bay reopened for harvesting earlier this month for the first time in 54 years after water quality reached an acceptable standard to inspectors. On the first day of reopening, the Department of Marine Resources reported 46 boats, including five recreational and 31 commercial, pulled in 441 sacks of oysters. For more information, call the Oyster Hotline at (228) 374-5167 or 1-800-385-5902 link 09:06

Rio Grande Valley Shrimpers Battle For Profits

valley-shrimpIt’s been a while since shrimpers from the Rio Grande Valley have seen a poor shrimp season. The Texas shrimp season just started 4 months ago. Andrea Hance is a shrimper who says, “A lot of the boats right now are having to go all across the gulf to find the areas where the shrimp are.” This season Hance says their production is down 40%. The decrease in production along with the increase in competition from foreign farm raised shrimp is taking a toll on the industry. Hance says foreign import shrimp sellers under cut local shrimpers by about 20% which makes Valley shrimpers lose out on business to restaurants who want a cheaper product. A lot of boats are going short handed. Video, read the rest here 16:05

Coast Guard medevacs man near Houma

coast guardThe Coast Guard medevaced a man from the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 23 miles south of Houma, Louisiana, Sunday. Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector New Orleans received a request 1:50 p.m. from the fishing vessel Michael II for a medevac of a 60-year-old Vietnamese deckhand who was experiencing stroke-like symptoms. Sector New Orleans directed the launch of an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans to assist the man. The crew arrived on scene at 3:57 p.m. and transported the deckhand to Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans in stable condition. For video of the medevac, please click here. 06:52

Water War: Florida and Georgia to blame for oyster loss

apalachicola oystersThe 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster threatened to spread oil from Texas to Florida and kill every shrimp, snapper and oyster in the Gulf of Mexico. Oystermen in Florida freaked out and, joined by fishermen from as far away as Texas, scraped every possible oyster — legal-sized or not — from the bottom of Apalachicola Bay. The still-poor condition of the bay and the oyster industry serves as the crux of the water war trial underway in this coastal New England town. Ralph Lancaster Jr., the special master assigned by the U.S. Supreme Court to remedy the 27-year-old interstate dispute, will ultimately decide who is to blame for the industry’s collapse. The trial’s first week ended Friday with a detailed examination of oyster fishing and Florida’s role in allowing the long-term degradation of the industry. It resumes Monday with the same focus. Florida says a lack of freshwater coming down the Apalachicola River from Georgia is to blame for the bay’s poor health. Georgia counters that over-fishing and lax management of oystering rules caused the damage. Read the story here 18:54

1st Biloxi Bay oyster harvest of 21st century opens Tuesday

biloxi oystersFor the first time in at least 40 years, Biloxi Bay will open for oyster harvesting. The state Department of Marine Resources said in a news release reefs in the Biloxi Bay portion of the Mississippi Sound will open at sunrise Tuesday. DMR Executive Director Jamie Miller says the harvest of oysters for the first time in 40-plus years in Biloxi Bay is nothing less than historic. Miller says the opening of the oyster reefs confirms water quality has improved in the Bay. Officials say harvesting is limited to oyster tonging. No dredging will be allowed. The limit is 15 sacks per day. Artificial reefs will not be open for oyster harvesting. There will be a station in the Ocean Springs Harbor for fishermen to check in and out each day. link 10:26

Jarvis Green: NFL Defensive End Turned Shrimp Entrepreneur

The first thing Jarvis Green wants to know, as we sit across the table from each other in the faculty cafeteria at Babson College, is which of the many nearby schools-that-start-with-the-letter-B houses my radio station. “Oh, Boston University?” He says. “I’m trying to do something with Boston University.” The next thing I know, we’re talking about Green’s plans to sell pre-cooked shrimp to college students with “value added sauce packets” so they “can’t mess it up.” And if those aren’t phrases you’d expect to hear from a former defensive end, you’re not alone. “I used to play football in the NFL. Won my two Super Bowls. I never thought I’d be doing this, you know. Learning price points. Understanding what it costs to get a shrimp out of the water.” Jarvis Green isn’t in the shrimp business because he needs the money. Sure, he could use more – he says we all could. Jarvis Green is in the shrimp business because … well, let’s start at the beginning. Read the story here 09:50

Coast Guard Station Cortez rescues 2 after boat takes on water near Anna Maria Island

The Coast Guard rescued two men Saturday after the 40-foot boat the two men were on began to take on water 13 miles west of Anna Maria Island. At 3:30 a.m., watch standers from Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg received a mayday call via VHF-FM marine band radio channel 16 from the crew aboard the commercial fishing boat Barbara Jean. The crew stated they were disabled due to engine trouble and were taking on water over the sides of the boat. A 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boat crew from Coast Guard Station Cortez launched and arrived on scene at 4:30 a.m. An RB-M crew member and dewatering pump were transferred to the fishing boat to begin dewatering efforts. The RB-M crew placed the fishing boat in tow and transported the two men and their boat to A.P. Bells Seafood in Cortez. No injuries were reported. 18:11

Florida-Georgia Water War to be settled in a Maine Courtroom on Monday. Last Chance for the Apalachicola Oyster?

The Flint River, from high atop the bridge on Po Biddy Road, looks nothing like the water-hogging culprit Florida makes it out to be. It’s all rocks with slivers of water barely coursing through. “That’s what paddlers call ‘bony,’ ” said Gordon Rogers, the Flint Riverkeeper. “It should be almost three times as high. And we’re not even in a big-dog drought.” Yet much of Georgia is in a drought — worsening by the day — and the lack of rain, barren streams and dwindling reservoirs buttress the latest “water war” legal battle set to begin Monday in a Maine courtroom. The stakes for Georgia have never been higher. Metro Atlanta’s future rides on the legal opinion of one irascible, no-nonsense Yankee barrister who has warned that neither Georgia nor Florida will be satisfied with his ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court appointed Ralph Lancaster as the “special master” to determine the validity of Florida’s 2013 lawsuit against Georgia and its alleged overconsumption of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. Whiskey’s for drinking, as the adage goes, but water’s worth fighting over. Read the story here 13:33