While some coastal businesses have opened in the wake of Hurricane Ian, one faces more challenges than most.
The September 28 storm devastated the Fort Myers Beach shrimp industry. The two largest companies, Trico Shrimp Company and Erickson and Jensen, discovered all but one of their shrimp boats washed ashore by the storm surge after the storm.
Of the 43 shrimp boats grounded by the storm, only one has been refloated in the seven weeks since. It took about six weeks for a barge and the necessary crane to arrive.
Getting the first boat back to Estero Bay was a huge boost to morale, said Erickson and Jensen’s Joel Andrews. “It was the biggest boat and it was the easiest boat to launch,” he said
On Wednesday, crews continued trying to get the boat, named Lexi Joe, owned by former Fort Myers Beach Mayor Tracey Gore and her family back into the water. They continued to encounter difficulties when the barge began to tip over due to excess weight on the first day of the trial.
“It weighs 120 tons,” Gore said. “So it’s just a matter of the crane being able to safely put her back in the water.
“Every boat that goes into the water has a huge economic impact on the community. One boat, two boats, three boats, four boats, each will have a big impact.”
The shrimp fishermen not only suffer from the lack of boats in the water. They struggle with no place to dump them, even when swimming.
“The other thing here is that we don’t have docks,” said Chris Gala of Trico Shrimp Company. “It will be another challenge. We have to find a way to tie her up. Maybe anchor here? We do not know it.”
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