From the Tampa Tribune – March 20, 1926
(click on the image to read)
Democrat senior writer
Judge Jackie Fulford
In a sweeping judgment in favor of Wakulla County commercial mullet fishermen, Leon County Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford on Tuesday ordered a halt to enforcement of Florida’s constitutional amendment limiting net fishing in state coastal waters.
Fulford sided with the Wakulla Commercial Fisherman’s Association, Panacea bait-and-tackle shop owner Ronald Fred Crum and county mullet fishermen Jonas Porter and Keith Ward, who sued FWC in 2011. They argued during a two-day hearing last year the mesh size of nets the agency forces them to use kills too many baby fish and violates the very constitutional amendment its rules are meant to protect. Fulford, who spent a year considering her decision, went out on the water off St. Marks last September to see for herself how the nets worked.
Calling contradictions between the so-called “net ban” approved by voters in 1994 and rules adopted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in 1997 to implement it a “legal absurdity,” Fulford’s decision is the latest turn in a 20-year legal battle that she said may only be resolved by further amending of the constitution.
“The court is not saying that preserving our marine life is absurd. Instead the absurdity is created in the law and how it is being applied. It is abundantly unfair for the courts to continue to attempt enforcement of laws that contradict each other,” Fulford wrote in her 11-page ruling. “An absolute mess has been created.”
“I think her order is entirely correct, not just because we prevailed, but because she has for the first time conducted an evidentiary hearing,” said Tallahassee attorney Ronald Mowrey, who represented the fishermen and has litigated the issue for decades. “The evidence was very, very clear … You can’t reconcile the rules they have enacted with their legislative authority with the constitution. They are discriminating against the mullet fishermen.”
Within hours of Fulford’s order, Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office filed on behalf of FWC a notice of appeal of the judge’s decision to the 1st District Court of Appeal.
“We are disappointed with the court’s ruling,” said FWC spokeswoman Amanda Nalley. “We are appealing because we don’t think it is valid.”
The appeal puts Fulford’s order to not enforce the law on hold, Nalley said.
“We are going to continue to enforce the law,” she added.
Crum expected FWC to appeal, but he wishes the two sides could settle and work together to fix the inconsistencies between the agency’s rules and the constitutional amendment.
“We’ve been at this for 20 years,” Crum said. “I wish we could get it over with.”
Mowrey said he and his clients would be happy to set aside the appeals process and try to mediate an agreement with state officials. Alternatively, he said, the matter should immediately go to the state’s highest court.
“This is a major public-policy matter that needs to be addressed by the Supreme Court,” Mowrey said.
At issue is an FWC rule that defines any net with a stretched mess size greater than 2 inches a “gill net” and thereby illegal under Florida law. But Fulford pointed out in her forcefully worded order that under the net ban amendment, all nets except a cast net are illegal and in fact gill, or entangle, fish.
“We cannot have a provision in our Constitution which outlaws the use of all nets in fishing, except use of a hand thrown cast net, and at the same time have rules adopted by the FWC that make exceptions to this constitutional provision,” Fulford wrote. “It is also absurd that a net as defined by FWC as lawful for the mullet fishermen to use, cannot even be used in the manner prescribed by FWC to catch fish.”
By J. NIELSEN Correspondent
Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 9:24 a.m.
J.B. Crawford at Cortez Kitchen, the area where the Stone Crab Festival will take place Saturday and Sunday.
Offering more than a nickel tour, J.B. Crawford, author and Cortez native, imparts his community’s history and life lessons in his young adult novel, “Nathan and the Stone Crabs.”
Even though his book is a work of fiction, Crawford is inspired by the village.
“I’m really proud of Cortez,” Crawford said. “Cortez is a little jewel box for me.”
Similar to the main character, Nathan, Crawford draws parallels between a young man and the choices that form his character and a community like Cortez, which was confronted by adversity after the commercial fishing net bans and reinvented itself so it continues to thrive.
Just as Nathan must, there are serious challenges that face a community, Crawford explained. The message he wanted to impart was that characters are supposed to change and, hopefully, for the better.
“J.B. was raised here. And we’re glad he came home again,” friend Mary Frances Green said.
The pioneer families that emigrated from Carteret County, N.C., five to six generations ago made something from nothing. If they wanted it, Crawford said, they had to make it.
Driving around the small fishing village along the north side of Sarasota Bay, Crawford pointed to homes readers can find in his book. For a long time houses were built “pay as you go,” he said, hence, the continual add-ons to a basic wood house, forming odd roof lines.
Looking at the old water tower house, Crawford, now 79, remembered when Cortez had its own water works. He also showed the old schoolhouse built of cypress in the 1890s prior to the brick one built in 1912. And 44th Avenue West, the main drag through Cortez, was once called Madrid Avenue. The hurricane of 1921 wiped out the village. One building, the Bratton store, survived.
The current Coast Guard station property was once home of the Albion Inn, named for an old Latin word for “England.” Rebuilt after the 1921 hurricane, it was active during winter months and served three meals a day.
Inspired by novelists Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe and John Steinbeck, Crawford sees similarities between Cortez and Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row” seaside setting in Monterey, Calif.
Born in 1934 in Sarasota, then attending first Ballard Elementary and Bradenton Junior High, he moved to Cortez in 1946 and graduated from Manatee County High. Wanting more than anything to go to Gainesville and read books, he did just that, majoring in English at the University of Florida.
“Cortez village produces more successful people than you’d ever expect from a tiny place,” he said.
Crawford earned a doctorate from Harvard, taught literature and English in Germany and France and later retired as a California district superintendent. He is now a commercial fishing captain and licensed stone crabber, busy again as stone crab season opened last week.
“Yes, you can go home again, if you’re willing,” Green said.
As Crawford tells it, his book’s lead character, Nathan, comes to Florida for a visit and learns about family and fishing craft.
When a major accident occurs, he must do the right thing.
“He does wonderful books, they’re magical and informative,” 30-year Cortez resident and friend Linda Molto said. “Knowing how much the fishing industry changed, his books teach people to be resourceful.”
For Crawford, Cortez has done the right thing, preserving its heritage while creating a future for the people who call Cortez home and make their livelihood there.
John "J.M." Taylor 75, Bradenton, died Oct 10, 2013. Predeceased by parents, Margaret and Harry Taylor and sister, Carol Taylor; grandson, Michael Taylor; survived by spouse of 35 years, Barbara Picard of Bradenton, FL; children, Tony, Amanda Telschaw, Tonya Freeman, Rebecca; 11 grandchildren; 3 great-grandchildren.
John travelled the US working as a welder for the Boilermaker’s Blacksmith Local Union 83. One of his proudest achievements was welding on the Columbia Space Shuttle. After retiring he settled back in his birth home in Cortez, FL and went back to his first love of Commercial Fishing for AP Bell & Co.
Graveside Services 11AM Sat Oct 19, 2013 at Palma Sola Cemetery. Brown & Sons Funeral Homes & Crematory 43rd St Chapel in charge. ‘JM’ will be forever missed and loved by all. We would like to extend our thanks to Tidewell Hospice, Inc. and his nurse, Shea and his dietician, Johnita. Special thanks to my friends Joan Brier and Ed Neimiller, Dr. Manju Singh, Mindy and Kabul. Condolences http://www.brownandsonsfuneral.com.
By CHARLES SCHELLE — cschelle
Restaurateur Ed Chiles, next to a wine wall featuring Lola wines inside the renovated dining room of the
Sandbar Restaurant on Anna Maria Island.PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton HeraldPVIDELA@BRADENTON.COM
ANNA MARIA — Ed Chiles has a certain Zen when it comes to speaking about mullet and locally caught seafood.
"It is who we are. It’s how this area was started. The economy of Manatee County, back into its earliest days, was anchored in two things: agriculture and seafood," Chiles said.
He knows tourists, especially Europeans, crave his dishes, but finding a way for the locals’ taste buds to savor the flavor of the local gray-stripe mullet or having red snapper collar prepared like fried chicken is more challenging. It’s all about honoring what the sea gives you, he said.
"We’re working on a project that we kind of loosely termed the Heritage Seafood Project. That’s about taking our native heritage products and utilizing them and educating people about them. Mullet is kind of the example," Chiles said, and other Gulf of Mexico catches help support the mullet’s role.
The behind-the-scenes process doesn’t sound appetizing at first when you understand what’s used are parts of the fish restaurants typically decide not to use. It’s not because it’s bad meat — chefs haven’t figured out how to make something appealing out of it until now.
"We’re making it work and it’s fun. We’re taking and doing babyback ribs, if you will, of big swordfish and big tuna instead of throwing that away," Chiles said. "The ribs above that dorsal line, when they cut those filets off, there’s still a lot of meat left on there. The closer to bone, the better the meat. I’ve been trying to figure out how to use these proportions we’re throwing away for 34 years. It amazes me that I haven’t figured it out until now, but we’re figuring it out.
"At the Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria, diners will see a rotation on the featured dinner menu of swordfish ribs, tuna ribs and then snapper collars on the featured lunch menu. If Chiles is at the restaurant, he’ll be sure to talk up the new creations, and even offer to buy it if the customer doesn’t like it.
"We say look, the skin on the snapper is really good. So you scale it and when you fry it, it’s crispy, and you eat it exactly like you would a fried chicken breast. You don’t eat the bone when you eat a fried chicken breast. And the bone in the collar is scapula-like. It’s not pin bones, so when you’re done, you have less than probably 3 or 4 percent of the weight of the collar left in those bones," he said.
"You just pull all these pockets of meat off, more like a chicken than eating a crab where it’s cavities instead of pockets, and it’s fabulous.
"Maybe no fish needs an image makeover more than the mullet — the top Cortez export. To Chiles, the reason locals might not like the usually greasy fish is it’s not prepared right. He’s leading the way to serve the Gulf’s gray-striped mullet with new recipes: smoked, fried, grilled and blackened.
Filleting the mullet so it’s not bony when served is what you’ll find under Chiles’ direction, and the meat from the belly is almost like a foie gras, said Ted LaRoche, one of Chiles’ business partners.
LaRoche believes Cortez and Manatee has the opportunity to be like the lobster fisherman in New England, where his grandparents hailed from, having to advocate and support the local delicacy enough to make it en vogue.
It’s all perception, LaRoche said. To him, mullet is nothing more than a saltwater version of catfish.
"I think it’s just a question of presenting it to people in an attractive package instead of wrapping it in a newspaper at a yard sale," he said.
Overseas visitors are more likely to grab hold of the mullet now.
"Europeans get it immediately, and more and more people are getting it. Once they have it then they’re coming back because it’s wild, sustainable, native, fresh fish," said Chiles of sandy bottom mullet.
"It’s very good for you. It’s very high in Omega-3, and it’s one of the highest fat content of any fish, and it’s right behind sardines.
"Chiles recently had a chance to show off the mullet to a captive American audience. County Commissioner and Port Authority chairwoman Carol Whitmore decided to take out a group of Port Manatee officials celebrating a deal with Pasha Automotive Group from California.
He went through his selections and evangelized for the mullet. It’s something that still sits with Matty Appice, director of international sales for Port Manatee, who is planning a return visit.
To Appice, mullet was nothing more than a bait fish and he wasn’t sure how this was going to go down, but he and his fellow diners couldn’t stop talking about the taste and preparation of the fish.
"I really like salmon and, if I didn’t know any better, I thought I really was eating salmon," Appice said.
Whatever is leftover from the night will be trucked to Gamble Creek Farm, where Chiles is leasing farmland to grow organic vegetables for his restaurants and for wholesale. He plans to include the fish in compost buried 18 inches below the surface for crops to continue the cycle.
The money in mullet is especially in the female’s roe. Anna Maria native Seth Cripe started Anna Maria Fish Co. in 2007 where more than 1,500 pounds of Cortez bottarga is made from salt-curing and sun-drying roe sacs. The company is the first in the United States to be certified to process bottarga. Chiles came on board as a business partner.
Bottarga is the seafood equivalent of prosciutto, used for garnishing and dressing salads and foods in the way it’s sliced from umber meat.
It’s big business for overseas companies that buy the roe from Cortez area fishermen for $6 to $15 a pound, freeze it, process the roe into bottarga and resell it for more than $100 a pound.
"We have allowed somebody else to reap the benefits of our precious natural resource, which is the mullet roe. No. 1 export in the oldest continual fishing village in state of Florida by far is the eggs from the female gray-stripe mullet. Hundreds of thousands of pounds go out as export," Chiles said.
The Cortez bottarga has received attention on the "Today" show and the New York Times and is in the kitchen of Caragiulos in Sarasota in addition to Chiles’ restaurants, but remains a tough sell.
The operation is expected to kick up again when peak mullet season comes in November, and by Nov. 15, the Anna Maria Fish Co. should be curing mullet roe inside a kitchen at Gamble Creek Farm.
In the restaurant business, every ounce counts toward the bottom line, so why not take the effort while supporting the mullet?
"It helps me utilize more product and be more efficient, and this is a business of pennies, so it all makes sense," Chiles said. "It’s a beautiful piece of fish, why throw it away? Why not honor the fish? This is wild, sustainable fish. This is as good as it gets."
Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.
By VIN MANNIX — email@example.com
John Beale files down paneling in the Florida Maritime Museum foyer. VIN MANNIX/Bradenton Herald
CORTEZ Up front, John Beale filed down the edges of wooden paneling along the foyer wall. Inside, Kevin Miner painted the finishing touches on a large mural of an old fishing village. Nearby, ladders remained around the main viewing area for more nautical artifacts to be hung.
Saturday’s reopening of the Florida Maritime Museum is mere days away, and Amara Nash was filled with anticipation as she walked around, checking off a mental to-do list.
"I’m eager to see what the public thinks," the museum supervisor said. "I have my fingers crossed for approval.
"Closed a month for renovations, the museum’s displays have been amplified to combine new exhibits with the old, enhancing the focus on the state’s maritime history and Cortez’s role in it.
Somehow the staff did it on a $1,500 budget.
"We did a lot of labor ourselves, painting and scraping, pulling things out of storage and rearranging stuff," Nash said.
Several new additions are geared toward the young, including:• The Samson Post, an interactive exhibit dedicated to lifelong Cortezian Sam Bell. It encompasses the roomwide seaside mural with an interactive area, where youngsters can navigate, raise and lower sails and load crates in a fish house.• A video game for children to pretend they are Cuban fishermen, plying their trade along Florida’s southwest coast in the 18th century.
Another new exhibit for the historically minded features a large depiction of 1920 Florida bearing the legend: The History of Florida’s Fishing Villages.
Railroad lines crisscross the peninsula like stitching connecting depots from Pensacola to Key West, with destinations from Mobile to Savannah.
Icons of fishing boats dot Florida’s shoreline signifying fishing villages that date back to the 1800s from Boca Grande to Cortez to Cedar Key on the Gulf of Mexico, and along the Atlantic from Fernandina Beach to Sebastian.
“These are all the fishing villages in Florida when they were active, the progression of the settlements and the rail lines," said Beale, a staffer. "You really get a sense of how important it was.
"Still is for Cortez, whose proud presence permeates the place like the museum’s old cypress aroma.
• A photo display of Cortez families — i.e., Bell, Culbreath, Fulford and Green — whose roots are intertwined with its 130-year history.
• An aerial photo of the fishing village in 1947.
• A photo essay of the 1921 hurricane.
• A collection of crustaceans, shells and sponges from deceased fisherman Blake Banks.
• A pole skiff boat donated by the late Alcee Taylor, the "unofficial" mayor of Cortez, whose nearby picture is framed by a boat hatch. "Alcee always wanted it over there," his widow, Plum, said of the museum. "It reflects who we are.
"Encouraging words for Nash as Saturday’s reopening nears.
"This is their history. This is close to home. They built this place," she said.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix
BY TOM VAUGHT | SUN STAFF WRITER
CORTEZ – While the seabirds glide over the roadway of the 56-year-old Cortez Bridge, engineers at the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) are studying whether to rebuild the venerable structure or replace it.
FDOT released an informational update recently on the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study the state is conducting. As that study continues, FDOT engineers are identifying the number and types of repairs and the cost of rehabilitating the bridge. They will soon begin evaluating the condition of the bridge deck, pilings, railings, piers and mechanical elements and how much corrosion has occurred. They are also trying to determine the repairs needed to avoid having to post a vehicle weight limit on the bridge.
Engineers are developing bridge replacement alternatives, including the cost and impact on the surrounding communities. They are looking at bridge heights and the alignment of the bridge as it lands on both sides. They are also collecting information about the environment surrounding the bridge. Divers have been in the water surveying sea grasses within project limits.
FDOT has released results of surveys turned in by the public prior to the initial public meeting this past spring. Nearly 850 replies were received. Fifty-one percent of the respondents favor rehabilitation of the bridge and 43 percent favor replacement. Of those wanting replacement, 38 percent favor a high, fixed-span bridge; 19 percent want a mid-level drawbridge; 33 percent prefer a low-level drawbridge; and four percent favor another option.
FDOT officials will hold a public workshop early next year to present bridge replacement alternatives, the rehabilitation alternative and the no-build option. Officials will conduct a formal public hearing next summer to present a recommended alternative and the no-build alternative.
FDOT will determine the recommended alternative with input from local elected officials, residents, users and other agencies. The Federal Highway Administration will need to approve the decision.
For more information, call Tony Sherrard, of FDOT, at 863-519-2304
By SARA KENNEDY — skennedy
The historic Monroe Cottage, built in 1946, is to be transformed into a cultural center.
GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald
CORTEZ — A tiny Florida Cracker-style beach cottage dating from 1946 is finally ready to be transformed into a local cultural center in Cortez. The Manatee County Commission on Sept. 10 approved $5,000 to pay permit fees and other governmental charges related to relocation of the cottage, which has helped the project move forward after a temporary halt.
"We’re grateful for it," said Mary Fulford Green, treasurer of the Cortez Village Historical Society, referring to the county’s contribution. "It was our turn."
Four years ago, the homespun Monroe Cottage, which for decades graced Bradenton Beach, was moved to Cortez.
Its restoration, however, waited while the historical society raised money and planned a re-do, said Green.
The county’s contribution will be used to pay permit fees and governmental costs the society must cover in order to place the cottage on a new site, and install electrical service, said Green. About $15,000 collected during fundraisers will help pay for its restoration, she said.
She hoped a grand opening of the cultural center could take place in February, when Cortez holds its annual fishing festival.
Ohio native Basil Monroe, a plasterer, built the cottage from remnants of a military barracks at 304 Church St., according to information provided by his granddaughter, Alice Baker, in an essay dated 2006.Monroe became a local celebrity after catching a 400-pound fish from a pier with a rope and hook, Baker wrote.
"He lived the good life in the cottage in Bradenton Beach," she added.
Monroe died in 1954, leaving the cottage to his three sons and his widow, and it remained in the family through the 1990s, Baker wrote.
Finally, it was acquired by Bradenton Beach officials in order to preserve it, and because it was near public buildings that needed more space, said Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, a former mayor of Bradenton Beach.
Bradenton Beach officials later gave the cottage to the historical society, and in 2009 it was moved from Bradenton Beach to Cortez.
Since then, officials from the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage have provided land under a leasing arrangement for a permanent site off Cortez Road at 117th Street West, Green said.
Exhibits planned for the cultural center will focus on family life and the contributions of local veterans, she said. The cottage’s age and architecture give it historical value, said Cathy Slusser, director of historical resources for R.B. "Chips" Shore, Manatee County clerk of circuit court and comptroller, Manatee County Historical Records Library.
"It was the typical Florida Cracker-style construction," she said. "It’s typical of a kind of fish camp
."Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031