Florida fishermen all around the state are on the edge of their seats, hoping to gain some good news about the fishing industry's future. Those in Lee County are furious that the federal agency NOAA Fisheries has rejected DeSantis’ fishery disaster request. 

In late September 2022, Hurricane Ian destroyed nearly all of Lee County, which led to mass destruction of the fishing industry within and around Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Sanibel Island, and Pine Island Sound. The western side of Florida has been devastated by the damage that Ian had caused. On October 15, 2022, Governor DeSantis was joined by fishing captains from southwest Florida to show his support for the fishing industry's road to recovery.

To get the fishing industry back on its feet, DeSantis requested the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to issue a federal fisheries disaster. The request would have provided federal funding to allow offshore, nearshore, and inshore fisheries to rebuild. “Florida’s fisheries are vitally important to the State’s economy through their impact on commercial and recreational fishing and tourism,” DeSantis stated in his official request.

“According to the most recent US Fish and Wildlife Service survey, Florida leads the nation in the number of saltwater fishing anglers. Florida’s recreational saltwater fishing industry has an economic impact of $9.2 billion, while the value of commercial fisheries is estimated at $244 million.”

Are inadequate policies and poorly written federal statutes to blame? Or does it boil down to politics? It all depends on who you ask, but from a commercial fisherman’s fearful perspective, things are not looking bright for the seafood that comes fresh from Florida.

Commercial fisherman Casey Streeter is struggling to pick up the pieces that Ian left scattered,
“This industry is really on the verge of being gone,” Streeter says. In just 12 hours, the storm destroyed everything including his icehouse, his market, and multiple vessels in his fleet. Streeter tells ABC Action News, “We are out on our own, and there is no one coming to help us. And with the denial that we just received, you know, I don’t want to call it a death sentence to our progress and move forward, but I mean, it sets us back in a way that’s going to be pretty hard to overcome.” He explains. 

Streeter and the other fishermen in the area have completely lost all infrastructure and have undergone a complete fishery failure. Without the support of federal funding, they are not hopeful. According to Allison Garrett, Communications Specialist for NOAA Fisheries/ U.S. Department of Commerce, said they are “conducting a review of the fishery disaster request under Section 321(a) of the MSA and the NOAA Fisheries Disaster Policy.”

News update as of June 6, 2023-

NOAA Fisheries did not reject the fishery disaster determination request from the Governor of Florida for impacts from Hurricane Ian. They are still reviewing the state’s request under provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. They share the concerns about the loss of life, property and income caused by the impact of Hurricane Ian. NOAA is waiting on data from the state in order to assess whether a commercial fishery failure due to a fishery resource disaster has occurred under the MSA. Once the necessary information has been received, they will work as expeditiously as possible to complete their analysis and provide a recommendation to the Secretary of Commerce.  

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Carli is a Content Specialist for National Fisherman. She comes from a fourth-generation fishing family off the coast of Maine. Her background consists of growing her own business within the marine community. She resides on one of the islands off the coast of Maine while also supporting the lobster community she grew up in.

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