Maine Fishermen Bring Storm Relief

The commercial fishing industry faces a massive, lengthy recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Hundreds of Gulf Coast fishermen lost their boats, while hundreds of others are repairing their damaged vessels and drawing unemployment.

Commercial fishermen are accustomed to difficulties. After all, they face not only dangers on the water, but also the uncertainty of things like fuel prices and demand for their catch. They're also a close knit brotherhood who support one another.

"It's in my blood. I'm ready to get out of it though. This put the icing on the cake," said Mike Kopszywa.

Katrina convinced the longtime Biloxi resident to reconsider fishing for a living. His boat is for sale and his outlook for the industry he loves is rather gloomy.

"You can't make a living at this. And it's going to be two or three years down the line before the fishing industry gets back on its feet," he said.

The hurricane damaged countless boats and left the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor battered and broken.

"We're paying full price for a dock with no water, no electricity. You can't even walk on the dock. And we don't even have our own dock space. So, it's bad," he said.

The director of the National Marine Fisheries Service testified before Congress this week, telling lawmakers it will cost 1.2 billion dollars to restore the Gulf Coast's hurricane battered commercial fishing industry. Those losses include ruined boats, fishing gear and dock facilities.

"We learned early on as fishermen, that when a cry for help goes out on the radio, we all drop everything and respond," said Craig Pendleton with the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance.

That group's response was a $25,000 check, shared between 25 Gulf Coast fishing families.

"There is a real brotherhood between the commercial fishermen in this country. We're proud of you for being part of that brotherhood," said DMR Director, Dr. William Walker.

Mike Kopszyza thankfully accepted a relief check. He and his fellow fishermen say that brotherhood means much.

"It makes you feel good to know your fellow fishermen in other parts of the states has really got a heart out for you, you know," said Pass Christian fisherman, Timothy Tillman.

This is the second time the group from Maine has come to the aid of its fellow fishermen. They also raised money to help commercial fishermen after the tsunami.