US Agriculture: Hurricane Irma cuts Florida lobster harvest by half
It's been just over a month since Hurricane Irma hit the US state of Florida, and its impact is still being felt, especially by local fishermen. Some even say this is the worst year in the past 50 years. CGTN's Steve Mort has this report from Marathon, Florida.
A fresh catch of spiny lobster arrives dockside. But for marina owner Gary Graves, this delivery is too little, too late.
GARY GRAVES VICE PRESIDENT, KEYS FISHERIES "Basically, lobster fishery is pretty much over for us this year."
Graves says Hurricane Irma dealt a severe blow when it hit Florida in September. Leaving a trail of wreckage on land, the storm also came just a month into lobster catching season.
GARY GRAVES VICE PRESIDENT, KEYS FISHERIES "We're going to probably end up maybe 50 percent of a normal season the way it looks right now."
STEVE MORT MARATHON, FLORIDA "While many Keys residents say it's likely to take months for debris like this to be cleared away, those involved in the fishing industry say it could take even longer than that for their livelihoods to recover."
Graves says Irma destroyed many of the traps used catch lobster.
GARY GRAVES VICE PRESIDENT, KEYS FISHERIES "We've got boats that have lost a minimum of 25 percent of their lobster traps, up to 80 percent."
Larry Yee exports almost a million kilos of live spiny lobster a year, mostly to China. He believes it may take three years to return to full capacity.
LARRY YEE ELITE SKY INTERNATIONAL "Right now there's no wood to replace those traps yet. We've ordered a lot, it's coming, and it's not here yet."
Lobster accounts for about a third of the Key's 150-million-dollar commercial fishing industry.
BILL KELLY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FLORIDA KEYS COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN'S ASSOCIATION "Our estimate right now is that we may have lost 43 percent of the lobster gear that's out there."
Gary Graves hopes to salvage some his losses with a successful stone crab season.
GARY GRAVES VICE PRESIDENT, KEYS FISHERIES "We'll hang in there. I've been here 50 years, this is not my first dance. This is probably the worst one I've seen in 50 years."
For now, Graves says he's focusing on keeping his head above water until his boats can head back out to sea for next year's lobster harvest. Steve Mort, CGTN, Marathon, Florida.