Gov. DeSantis wants fishery disaster declaration from Feds after Hurricane Ian damages over 5K vessels in South Florida

‘Permanent’ solutions for property insurance woes will wait until Legislature returns in March, DeSantis says

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Saturday held a news conference at Burnt Store Marina, a yachting resort in Punta Gorda, where he spoke to recent developments in the region’s recovery from Hurricane Ian, this time with more of a focus on the commercial fishing industry.

DeSantis said the state has requested U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to declare a federal fishery disaster in Florida.

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“This will be commercial fishermen, it’ll be wholesale dealers, charter boat captains, off-shore, near-shore, in-shore fisheries, and there was damage on all of those that we don’t know the exact impacts to the industry, and you know, hopefully the impacts aren’t as severe as worst case, but we don’t really know for sure, but this- clearly a storm of this magnitude, this is appropriate for this declaration, so once this is approved, then that provides these groups and people in the industry to work with NOAA to be able to get more support,” DeSantis said.

The event also featured Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Chairman Rodney Barreto.

Barreto elaborated on the storm’s damage now seen in South Floridian marinas.

“We understand early estimates is probably north of 5,000 boats that are damaged. We have a special crew in here, they’re tagging boats as we talk right now. We’re going to be cleaning these boats up, the insurance companies (are) in here cleaning boats up right now. So we’re gonna get the waterway cleaned back up so you get back out boating, back to a normal life,” Barreto said. “Today’s the first day stone crab season, so we have waived by executive order lobster traps and stone crab traps so commercial guys can get their traps back out on the water so they can start making a living. We’re cognizant of the fact that the fisheries- they may not have a place to take it, to sell to, so we’re going to be talking to the governor about that because they need an avenue to sell their product, and we’re gonna have to find out because it doesn’t exist right now.”

According to Guthrie, FDEM has shifted to “short-term recovery efforts” in South Florida.

“Today we have picked up a lot of debris across the area to include wet debris. We continue to work on vessels... we continue to move at record speeds not just in response, but now as we shift into recovery to provide resources for impacted residents, I’d like to thank our FEMA and all of our federal agencies for their partnership as we continue to work on these issues to include, as you heard the governor announced today, our aquaculture issues. I’m confident that NOAA and the Secretary of Commerce will be just as great a partner as Deanne Criswell and the FEMA administration as well as (the) U.S. Army Corps and many other federal agencies, and we look forward to working with them,” Guthrie said.

Criswell updated the current status of where FEMA was in South Florida, giving listeners a rundown of where individuals can also seek federal help.

“So what we have right now for FEMA is we have 14 disaster recovery centers that are open in conjunction with the state, with Director Guthrie, and at those centers you can talk to somebody about what you need to do for assistance with FEMA, you can talk to SBA and see if you want to apply for a loan with them. Many of these disaster recovery centers are co-located with the state’s insurance villages and so you can get all of that done in one spot. If you want to find out more about where the disaster recovery centers are located. You can go to or and you can find where the closest one is to you,” Criswell said.

DeSantis on Friday spoke at the Cape Coral Police Department, officiating as six recent hires there accepted checks from the Florida Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Payment Program. He also discussed concerns over property insurance in the wake of Hurricane Ian, describing the corporation Citizens as “unfortunately undercapitalized” and suggesting that residents with storm-damaged property determine exactly which type of claims to make, be it for flooding, wind damage or otherwise.

The governor on Saturday continued Friday’s conversation about property insurance, telling the crowd that while the state intends to take action on such issues, “permanent” solutions won’t come until the Florida Legislature’s next regular session convenes.

That will happen on March 7, 2023, almost five months away, unless a special session is called sooner.

“I know there’s issues with property tax and suspending, you know, that, especially (because) maybe you have a tax bill and your home is destroyed, you shouldn’t be on the hook for that. So we’re working on ways to be able to give people breathing room, and then when the Legislature comes back, we’re going to work with the Legislature to provide the permanent relief for people who’ve been affected by the storm,” DeSantis said.

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Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.