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UF/IFAS Florida Sea Grant hurricane response

From Karl Havens, director of UF/IFAS Florida Sea Grant

The executive director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association (Bill Kelly) contacted Florida Sea grant on Wednesday about assisting them in recovering lobster traps. We had a two hour call with Bill yesterday, and also a representative from the FWC, the Monroe County Extension Director and the UF/IFAS Extension Sea Grant agent in Monroe County (Florida Keys), Shelly Kreuger. They have a dire need. It is the height of the lobster season. Their dockside revenue is over $150 million a year and they employ nearly a thousand people when you include people in boats, on land and in fish houses.

They know that of their approximately 450,000 lobster traps, as many as 25 percent now are still in usable form but are in tangled masses all along the Keys from Key Largo to Key West, some having moved 16 or more miles and into the Gulf side of the Keys. They need to locate and recover these traps as soon as possible and get them fishing again. Four fish houses are operating at a level that they can handle product and the FWC has lifted a restriction about having traps on a boat that belong to other fishermen, making it much easier for them to do the rescue operation.

They asked for our support in conducting a recon mission to locate the traps and develop a GIS map and a data file with coordinates. We have done this kind of work before. This work might start as soon as next week.