Cranes removing displaced boats at Fort Myers Beach

Reporter: Michael Hudak Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Fort Myers Beach used to be a place where you’d see happy beachgoers enjoying the sun and water. However, since Ian, when you cross the bridge, you are met with construction cranes and more.

The cranes are there to pick up a lot left behind by Ian, such as boats that have been lost in the storm. That kind of help cannot come fast enough, especially to those who need them for work.

A steel hull, which is a boat weighing about 180 tons, will take about $50,000 to get material out of the area.

Fishermen have to come up with the money themselves to get the proper equipment to lift the materials needed back in the water.

Although the boats aren’t even the biggest thing that needs saving, the entire fishing industry in Southwest Florida needs help. Fishermen are telling WINK News that their livelihood is quickly sinking and could use some help.

While picking up cars is not a big problem for the crane, picking up boats can be very tough.

Casey Streeter is a grouper and snapper fisherman, and he said he needs to get boats floating again just to keep the industry afloat.

“They’re more than just boats. You know what I mean? They’re businesses. They’re people’s livelihoods,” Streeter said. “So, they’re going to be careful in everything they do to try to protect that.”

“Fishery is a small industry. There’s not really many of us left,” Streeter said.

Like others in his field, Casey continues to tread water since Hurricane Ian scattered dozens of shrimping steel hull and fiberglass hull boats all over the place.

Casey explained the fishing industry can’t get funding to get them up and they definitely can’t get it fast enough.

“For fisheries, our help comes in from the Secretary of Commerce, and it takes three-to-four years to receive any benefit, any kind of funding,” Streeter said. “And it goes through congress to even clear our money.”

What that means most importantly for them, they need to help themselves.

“I was approached by a company out of Texas,” Streeter explained.

Streeter mentioned that he was getting connected to the right people to start getting boats afloat again.

“I was like, well this is exactly what we need. And the owner mobilized the crane that’s here today,” Streeter said. “He said, ‘Look, we need to get something staged here to save these boats.'”

Neighbors across the Gulf agreed to help the fishermen on San Carlos Island and save their livelihoods.

“On his dollar … a great dollar at that … he mobilized the cranes to come here … and they’re ready. They want to start executing these lifts. They’ve got the equipment to do it, the expertise to do it, and as a community, we need them to do it,” Streeter said.

“When we lift these boats … and we get them back in the water … that is going to be the sign of recovery in our area,” Streeter said.

So, because of Streeter’s efforts, because of the company in Texas willing to help out, they are going to be pulling a 180-ton boat out of the water on Wednesday.

Streeter just knows that in order to get boats out of the water and save the industry he works in, it’s going to take all hands on deck.

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