Hurricane Michael leaves long-term rebuild for Florida

Hurricane Michael blew through the Florida panhandle nearly two weeks ago, but it appears the major storm will have long-lasting effects on the state’s commercial fishing industry.

The state’s shellfish industries were especially hard-hit, as the storm impacted areas known for clam and oyster beds.

T.J. Ward, whose family has worked in the shellfish business for five generations, said his aquaculture business “is done for at least a year or two” in an interview with WBUR radio in Boston

“The damage in Apalachicola is the worst I've ever seen, and locals that are older than me and been through more hurricanes haven't seen it this bad,” he said.

The impact to fisheries isn’t just to human structures, as the environment can be heavily impacted by flood waters changing the shape of the landscape.  

"We won't know how this system responds until after. When you look at catastrophic storms, very often they can shift baselines in systems," Duane DeFreese, executive director of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, told Florida Today. "Completely over-wash the wetland, upland transitions, and then it takes some time for systems to recover. The commercial fishing impacts on this could be extreme."

The effects also will be felt beyond the Gulf for at least one company.

According to The Seattle Times, Michael took a nearly-completed 261-foot trawler and ripped it from the shipyard’s mooring in Panama City, Florida. The ship, being built at Eastern Shipbuilding for Glacier Fish Co., was supposed to depart for Alaska in November and start processing groundfish.

“There is a lot of work and a huge amount of effort that goes into this, and we were so close,” Glacier Fish Co. President Jim Johnson said.

Company officials said they had not yet determined the extent of the damage to the ship, which was discovered on foundering on its starboard side in Saint Andrews Bay.

According to a statement by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, NOAA Fisheries has determined “catastrophic conditions” exist in 22 Florida counties and 10 in Alabama. The ruling means federally permitted dealers who have no access to electronic reporting are allowed to use paper forms to submit red snapper and grouper-tilefish landings. That authorization is currently expected to be in effect until 21 November.


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