Commercial fisherman struggles to make profits

Posted at 11:04 PM, Feb 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-12 23:25:36-05

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. -- Lake Okeechobee releases continued to flow into the St. Lucie Estuary Friday night, creating another night of worry for local business owners who who rely on clean water to make a living.

Commercial fisherman, Chuck Anderson, says the St. Lucie River used to be his ‘sweet spot’ for fishing and crabbing.

“I would stay down there all year long, fishing and crabbing. I made a very good living at it.”

But in 2013, that took a big turn. Three years later, his business is still not bouncing back.

“You couldn’t pay me to go down there now. I don’t want my hands in there.”

Discharges continue from Lake Okeechobee at a maximum release level. It’s also full of agricultural runoff and nutrients that can choke marine life.

Now, he says he has to fish and trap crabs father north near Indian River County to avoid fishing in polluted water.

“My business is devastated because of this,” Anderson said. “The crabs seem to be getting worse and worse and worse every year.”

He described seeing crabs in 2013 that were discolored and disfigured, and harder than ever to find. They would die before he could even get them to market.

“And I’m thinking all the time, you know, is this safe? Is this safe for people to buy and eat this product that I’m going to try to go out here and catch and make my living?”

He blames the negative effects on his crabbing on the poor water quality from Lake Okeechobee releases and local runoff.

He says he’s still not trapping nearly as many crabs as he used to, and is seeing a 50% loss in profits.

He worries the discharges now are only delaying, if not destroying, his chances of seeing his business and the estuary bounce back.