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Halper discusses plans for local hatcheries

June 26, 2019
By ED FRANKS (efranks@breezenewspapers.com) , Pine Island Eagle

George Halper, president of the Florida Fishery Foundation, a new group formed to raise funds to build fish hatcheries in Southwest Florida, offered a PowerPoint presentation at Wednes-day's Matlacha Civic Association meeting.

The organization was started by two longtime fishermen, Halper and Bob Weller.

"None of us knew each other 2 1/2 months ago," Halper said. "I met Bob on the Internet and in 2 1/2 short months we have 3,700 members on our Facebook page (Restock Florida Fisheries Now) and we have our web page up and running at www.FloridaRestock.org."

Article Photos

George Halper, president of the Florida Fishery Foundation, speaking to members of the Matlacha Civic Association.

ED FRANKS

The group's mission statement is "To provide a clear path to enhance Florida fish stocks for future generations while concurrently strengthening the economy."

"The Florida Fishery Foundation is a piece of the puzzle," Halper said. "We hope to start a fish hatchery on Pine Island. But we're also linked to cleaning the water, saving the manatees, restoring the mangroves and replanting the seagrass -- everything is interconnected."

Halper said he is concerned that his children and children today will not have the fishing opportunities he had as a boy.

"If there are no fish out there, the kids won't fish," Halper said.

"Bob and I are both lifelong fishermen," Halper continued. "I've been here 20 years and I can tell you how bad it is out there. Our Legislature is doing nothing so we have taken it upon ourselves to do this."

Halper pointed out that states such as Texas have highly effective hatcheries. In Corpus Christie, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department operates a redfish hatchery that produces juvenile (30 millimeter) red drum and spotted seatrout for releasing into Texas bays for stock enhancement.

"The Texas operation produces 50 million fingerling redfish, spotted seatrout and flounder every year," Halper said.

Halper said when you think of a fish hatchery you think of this massive operation but small fish hatcheries can work and you have to start somewhere. The group plans to start small -- possibly with one fish hatchery tank on Pine Island or Matlacha to release fish into Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor.

"One small 5,000-gallon tank can produce up to 5,000 redfish twice a year," Halper said. "Now 10,000 fish won't make a big difference, but by adding more tanks to the system you produce more fish."

"We're looking to raise an initial $50,000 - $75,000 to get started," Halper said. "Phase one is simply to establish the 501(3) and establish the Facebook page and the website to get people involved. So far we've been very successful with that. Our Facebook page has more than 3,500 members."

In phase two the group hopes to raise the money, acquire the land, expand on the media outreach and see some businesses about advertising funds.

"In phase three, we will be seeking large corporate sponsors," Halper said.

"Saltwater fishing is a $9 billion industry in Florida and the state is losing billions," Halper said. "This whole area revolves around fishing. If there's no fishing there's no buying boats, bait, rods and reels and no guides.

"Our main focus is the children," Halper said. "We're not trying to reinvent the wheel here but we want to place as many fish as possible as soon as possible. Our kids need a good fishery right now."

The website www.FloridaRestock.org includes a GoFundMe button.

Facebook: Restock Florida Fisheries Now

Annexation, Chiquita

Boat Lock lawsuits

In other business, Matlacha resident Michael Hannon provided an update on the annexation lawsuit and the Chiquita Boat Lock lawsuit.

"The Matlacha Civic Association sued Cape Coral over the annexation of 5+ acres next to D&D Bait in Matlacha," Hannon said. "The case was reversed in the Court of Appeals and sent back to Judge Kyle to decide the case. Kyle recently requested a 'status hearing' in July.

We don't know what Judge Kyle has in mind but we're just going to ask him to decide the case on the papers that have been filed."

The second part of the lawsuit was based on Cape Coral acting as a real estate investment company buying and selling land. Hannon cited the Seven Islands project where Cape Coral owns the property and is looking for an investor. That suit was separated from the annexation case. Attorneys are preparing to file soon.

The Chiquita Boat Lock challenge lawsuit needs to file a proposed decision within two weeks. "We're hoping the governor will continue with his clean water agenda to give us some political influence with the Department of Environmental Protection," Hannon said.

Fire Commissioner and candidate for County Commission Seat #1, Michael Dreikorn provided an update on Cape Coral's intentions on future annexations.

"Following the annexation of the property in Matlacha the Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Control District filed a 164 Action. This is a precursor to a civil suit between government agencies. We were able to resolve the issue about future annexations and come to an agreement that Cape Coral will not involuntarily annex any property inside the M/PIFCD for 20 years."

Matlachs Civic Association meetings are held the third Wednesday of every month (including off-season) at 6 p.m. Meetings are held at the Art Building in Matlacha Park.

 
 

 

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