Category Archives: Gulf of Mexico

Shrimp boat tangles with a bridge in South Florida

A visitor to a Southwest Florida bridge captured video of a shrimp boat attempting to pass under the structure and temporarily getting stuck. Abraham Arrasola was streaming video on Facebook Live when the shrimp boat attempted to pass under the Matanzas Pass Bridge in Fort Myers. The boat makes contact with the bridge and ends up stuck for a few minutes before it is able to continue on its way. Arrasola said he could see pieces of the bridge falling as the boat worked to free itself. The extent of the damage to the bridge and the boat was unclear. Link 12:33

Zurik: Snapper barons slam FOX 8 probe, but Trump admin. may think otherwise

An alliance of fishermen who make millions off a public resource wants us to retract all our stories from our “Hooked Up” series. The series showed how 50 fishermen can make $23 million a year from red snapper, and many never even drop a line in the water. The Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance and its executive director, Buddy Guindon, sent us a 23-page letter, calling our stories sloppy and biased. Many of the complaints focus on statements made by subjects we interviewed for our stories. They include 20 separate citations of comments in our series by Congressman Garret Graves of Louisiana.,, Graves says he’s heard from congressmen from all over the country since our five-part series was broadcast. He thinks now is the time to change the system.,,,While the group of 50 fishermen have been unhappy with our reports, we’ve heard from dozens of others with positive comments, like a Florida commercial fisherman who wrote, “Your report hit home with all our concerns in regards to how unfair the small commercial fishermen are being treated and wrongly represented.”Read the story here 12:32

East Naples boat captain accused of smuggling immigrants in Florida Keys

An East Naples charter boat captain arrested Sunday off the Florida Keys faces human smuggling charges. Federal agents said they found 11 people from three Caribbean countries below deck on his boat. None of the 11 were U.S. citizens, agents said. U.S. Customs and Border Protection air and marine officers said they were on patrol in Tavernier Creek about 3 p.m. Sunday when they came across Richard Karl Mork’s disabled boat and two personal watercraft approaching the boat with two gas cans. Officers boarded the boat about 3:30 p.m. and found 11 passengers, including two unaccompanied minors, below deck, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Homeland Security Department in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The vessel, named “Scout,” was found about 2 nautical miles from Tavernier, south of Key Largo. Read the story here 21:15

Coast Guard medevacs man from fishing boat 38 miles west of Egmont Key

The Coast Guard medevacked a fisherman Tuesday from a commercial fishing boat 38 miles west of Egmont Key. At 6:10 p.m. watch standers from Sector St. Petersburg received a VHF-FM marine band radio call from the captain of the commercial fishing vessel Miss Brianna, stating he suffered an injury to his leg and was in need of emergency medical attention. A flight surgeon was notified and recommended the man be medevacked. Video, click here 12:15

Oversight Hearing on Examining the Creation and Management of Marine Monuments and Sanctuaries Wednesday, March 15, 2017 10:00 AM

Oversight Hearing on: “Examining the Creation and Management of Marine Monuments and Sanctuaries”  Click here to read the memo  Witnesses and Testimony: Dr. John Bruno Professor, Department of Biology University of North Carolina, Mr. Chett Chiasson Executive Director Greater Lafourche Port Commission,  Mr. Brian Hallman Executive Director American Tunaboat Association, The Honorable Jon Mitchell Mayor City of New Bedford Click here @ 10:00am and listen to the hearing. 19:05

Coast Guard medevacs 2 men from fishing vessel off Panama City

The Coast Guard medevaced two men from a commercial fishing vessel approximately 50 miles offshore of Panama City, Florida, Friday. Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Mobile received a report of two injured crewmembers aboard the fishing vessel Capt. Gorman III at about 7:00 p.m. A 50-year-old male suffered lacerations near his left eye and right hand, and a 55-year-old male suffered a laceration to his neck. Watchstanders directed the launch of an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans, who hoisted the patients and transported them to Bay Medical Sacred Heart in Panama City. The cause of the incident is under investigation. link 12:29

Small Scale: Two Scoops Bait Company allows anglers to spend less time looking for bait

“During the week it’s mostly guides, but on Fridays and weekends it’s a lot of guys,” said Trey Daugherty, owner and operator of Two Scoops Bait Company. “Each day more recreational guys call me, and they definitely keep me busy throughout the day.” Daugherty started his bait-selling business in the spring of last year and was so successful he picked up right where he left off early last week. As the demand for scaled sardines and other finned live bait from anglers increases, Daugherty finds himself needing to increase his supply to keep up with rising demand. “Some days I’m spending four or five hours catching bait. I’m catching about 300 to 400 dozen everywhere from Fort DeSoto all the way to Port Manatee. It’s been tough recently, and I think that’s why a lot of guys come to me,” Daugherty says. continue reading the story here 12:11

Coast Guard medevacs skipper from fishing boat in the Gulf

The Coast Guard medevacked a 29-year-old man Friday from a 72-foot commercial fishing vessel 23 miles southwest of Sanibel. At 4:30 a.m. watch standers from Sector St. Petersburg received a VHF-FM marine band radio call from the captain of the commercial fishing vessel Sea Explorer, stating he was experiencing chest pains and was in need of emergency medical attention. A flight surgeon was notified and recommended the man be medevacked. An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Clearwater and a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boat crew from Station Fort Myers Beach were launched and the area’s Marine Emergency Response Team was activated. At 5:31 a.m. the Coast Guard boat crew arrived on scene with Lee County EMS aboard. The man was transported to Station Fort Myers Beach in stable condition where EMS awaited to transport him for further medical assistance. Link 13:03

Bill would extend shrimping season in portion of Mississippi Sound

A bill that would open part of the Mississippi Sound a month earlier than the traditional June start of shrimping season is headed to Gov. Phil Bryant. Shrimp season in the Sound south of the Intracoastal Waterway, which essentially divides the Sound, usually closes April 30. North of the Intracoastal Waterway, the season closes Dec. 31. If Bryant signs SB 2683, which was authored by Sen. Tommy Gollott, R-Biloxi, the season in the part of the southern Sound that is east of the Gulfport ship channel could remain open year-round. Department of Marine Resources Executive Director Jamie Miller said the measure is aimed at helping the smaller shrimp boats that make up the majority of the Mississippi fleet. Those boats can’t go out as far as the larger, steel-hulled boats that can fish the deeper waters of the open Gulf. “It’s just another opportunity for those shrimpers who don’t have large boats,” he said. continue reading the story here 21:53

The Crab-Fishing Drug King of Everglades City

On a seafood pilgrimage to south Florida, Jamie Feldmar catches wind of drug-runners, false-bottom crab boats, and a tale so bizarre it could only be true. Maybe, Disclaimer: What I am about to tell you is all true…ish, though names have been changed to protect the guilty. I’ve fact-checked where possible, combing through newspaper archives to find evidence that supports the claims made within. But even now, months later, I still find myself questioning whether any of this was real, or if it was some kind of bizarro-world fever dream. So take everything in the account below with a grain of salt; treat it as my attempt to record a memory before it evaporates entirely. We’re en route to Everglades City because it is, according to the residents of Everglades City, the stone crab capital of the world. Dozens of crabbers are based there, supplying much of the country from October to May every year. read the story here 15:06

Crab ban timing aggravates fishermen – “It’s not too late. Give us an emergency opening.”

Crab fishermen are expressing frustration over how the state’s 30-day crab season moratorium was set for the weeks leading up to Lent when prices are higher. “Not during Lent, that’s what we’re saying. We don’t need to change the season, we need to change the date,” said Patrick Luke, a crab fisherman and the owner of P&S Seafood & Fuel in Dulac. Luke said crab fisherman wouldn’t be complaining if the closure was in October when prices are traditionally much lower. February is also “a period of time where we are allowed to pick up derelict crab traps. “So now you’re going to open back up this season, March 20, and you’re gonna have record crabs,” Luke said. “Say you had 50,000 pounds on that day. You’re gonna have like 500,000 pounds. The market can’t take it. So then what’s going to happen? The price is gonna drop. Who hurts? The fisherman.” Read the story here 10:58

Bait company’s freezer nearly empty. Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission has declared an emergency!

The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission has declared an emergency so the state’s one menhaden bait boat can begin fishing two weeks early. Louisiana Bait Products LLC officials say the emergency is that they’ve sold most of the 5,550 tons harvested last year, and don’t want to run out. “We had a pretty start to the crawfish season, so we’ve been selling a lot of our offseason inventory this year,” agent Shawn Switzer said Thursday from the office in Abbeville. Co-founder Daniel Edgar estimated Friday that Louisiana’s crawfish, crab and catfish industries use 37,500 to 50,000 tons of bait a year. Most is trucked in from Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey. “We are going to run out of bait before April,” Edgar said. Read the story here 08:38

Spiny Lobster season in the Florida Keys: Not as strong, not a disaster

One month remains in the regular lobster season but many of the traps put out by the Florida Keys commercial fleet are back on the hill — meaning pulled ashore until next summer. “We’re bringing in about 235 traps now from 200 feet of water,” Conch Key commercial fisherman Gary Nichols said Tuesday. “This season has been kind of fairly good,” Nichols reported from aboard his 43-foot boat. “It’s not as good as the last couple of years and the market has been softer.” Tom Hill at Key Largo Fisheries agreed, “It hasn’t been a bad year, but it’s not as robust as it has been. I think we have had less production than in the past few seasons.”,, The Asian market for live Florida lobster, which buoyed the fleet after the economic recession, remains a critical component of the fishing economy but was not as profitable as in the past seven to eight years. continue reading the story here 10:17

National Marine Fisheries Service Policy Directive – Catch Share Policy

PURPOSE The purpose of this policy is to encourage well-designed catch share programs to help maintain or rebuild fisheries, and sustain fishermen, communities and vibrant working waterfronts, including the cultural and resource access traditions that have been part of this country since its founding.  DEFINITION “Catch share” is a general term for several fishery management strategies that allocate a specific portion of the total allowable fishery catch to individuals, cooperatives, communities, or other entities. Each recipient of a catch share is directly accountable to stop fishing when its exclusive allocation is reached. The term includes specific programs defined in law such as “limited access privilege” (LAP) and “individual fishing quota” (IFQ) programs, and other exclusive allocative measures such as Territorial Use Rights Fisheries (TURFs) that grant an exclusive privilege to Continue reading this here 15:50

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