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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
Interviewed at U.N.F.
(Floyd) "Before we get into the question section, I'd like to explain to you
some of the things I brought. What I'm holding here is used to make nets
with, it was before the industrial revolution. This is my own personal
widener board. My father gave it to me forty some years ago. And I don't
know how long he had it. Me and my brother both got one. It's made out
of a wood from South America called ....It's just like steel. It almost feels
like plastic. It's used to keep the mesh size the same as you're making the
nets. Of course since the industrial revolution, none of us make nets as far
as every individual mesh anymore. We order the webbing from the
factories and then we sew them together to make the type of net that we
want. Which is a lot less time consuming. In the early days, say in the
twenties, most of the nets were made by the woman in the family, because
they were at home with the children and the fishermen were out fishing.
And there's no cash value I'd take for that. That's one thing I wanted to
show you to give you an idea of some of the things we used to make nets.
This is a modem shuttle, we call them needles. The twine that you use to
sew the net is put onto the needle on opposite sides and you just keep until
you fill the needle. We use these to make the nets with. It's what holds our
twine. This is a modem plastic needle. It's been around for, I assume forty
years, somewhere around when plastics came about and nylons. These
however, are another keepsake of mine: They're probably seventy or a
hundred years old. I really don't know how old they are. They're hand
made out of hickory. The old fishermen they had to make their own needles
to sew their nets. So these were all carved out of pieces of hickory. And
I'll pass these around and you can feel them."
(Kennedy) "All the world has been doing this type of hand-crafted
occupation....plastic made its appearance....cultures all over the
world....hand woven baskets..."
(Floyd) "This newspaper article that's really yellowed over the years.
Seems like every thing I've got is yellowed. I'm getting old I guess. This
was a photo of a federally funded fishing program that I ran with Mr.
Kennedy in '74, I think it was. '73 or '74. We were taking students that
were interested in the small boat fishery and we were gonna teach them how
to do it and then through the S.B.A. they could go into the business for
themselves. To be honest with you at the time I was really skeptical of the
program because even in '73 the writing was on the wall. We didn't know
how many more years we were gonna have to make a living. We knew it
wouldn't be generation after generation. It was to the point that we knew it
probably in our lifetime we would see an end to the way that we made our
living. This is just one seine haul. I don't remember how many thousands
of pounds of fish it was. But all these fish were donated to needy people. I
think a Florida boys ranch, a Trinity mission downtown, a lot of missions
and stuff like that. But I'll pass that around. It's just an interesting little
(Kennedy) "Sam, did any of those students stay in fishing?"
(Floyd) "No, one boy named Emory. I'll never forget Emory. He was a
super nice guy. He got an S.B.A. loan and went into the business for four or
five years and then I don't know what happened to him. I lost track of him.
He did reasonably well, but the fishing business is not something that you
can get into and next week do as well as the people who have been doing it
for generations. There's a lot of things, a lot of things that you learn in the
business. There's folklore, there's a lot of, like whistling on a boat and
stuff. You can just blow that off because its just superstition, but there's a
lot of little things that are handed down to you that make you a better
(Kennedy) "There was one girl in that class named Kennedy, I think it was.
Did she ever stay in it?"
(Floyd) "Last I heard she was in Alaska, driving a truck. I don't know. She
was a rather strange child. I fired her as a matter of fact, and they called me
up on the carpet and said I couldn't fire them. And I said, well they're fired
anyway. You'can either fire me or keep them fired. This old guy here, his
name was Chichimo. He's been dead for years now. I'll pass this around so
you can see him. You can see how weather-beaten and sun-beaten he is.
He was a fisherman and his father was a fisherman. Fished from Campeche
Bay all the way through Mayport. Had a monkey for years named Bosco.
A spider monkey, meanest thing I ever saw. And then there's some other
pictures in here. It's just old articles. This is a picture of a sturgeon my dad
caught right off the east coast here. It was the largest sturgeon to my
knowledge that's been caught on this coast. This was in '63, '62, '63. I
lose track of time. Anyway, that's my dad there, the dark-haired fellow.
Just interesting. Most people don't even know we catch sturgeons off the
east coast. But we have a pretty good sturgeon stock. They're on the
restricted species list now. But most people don't understand. The
restricted species list was brought about five years ago with a lot of other
legislation. And the purpose of it was to take things that weren't presently
being managed, that may or may not be in trouble, but to be sure that they
didn't get to a point that the species was in trouble they put them on this
restricted species list. And they would cut down our production of them
until they could get enough information from ........ in Tallahassee to make a
decision on what they needed to do.
For example, like last year we caught 22 million pounds of row mullet. The species as
a whole seems to be declining a little bit. So what we're going to do instead of
fishing seven days a week, we went five years ago to five days a week. And then they,
9 everything I catch is written down at the fish house. It goes to St. Petersburg and
allahassee. The amount I caught, the species I caught, where I caught it at, what I
used to catch it with, and the number of hours it took to produce it. For the last, I
don't know, I lose track of time, five or six years we've been sending that in. And
when they compile the information, if it seems like the species as a whole is
declining, then they cut down the production by cutting down the time we can fish on
them. We're down to four and a half days a week for mullet. Well, actually, we're out
of business, to be quite frank with you. Amendment 3 effectively put us out of
business. The only thing we can use to fish with now is a cast net. And I'm making
new cast nets now. But the production with a cast net, I don't know if it's going to be
a viable type thing. Mullet will probably go 100% higher than last year. Right now,
what we call fat mullet. Black mullet, like most animals, when they get ready to
spawn they feed for a long time to develop a lot of fatty tissue. Because during the
egg-laying and egg-bearing stages they don't eat much, so that they use a lot of
energy. So they got to have this big layer of fat in them to keep them going. Fat
mullet, traditionally around here, go for about 25 cents a pound August, September,
and October. They're over a dollar a pound at the wholesale house right now. If we
sell something 45 cents wholesale it usually is about a dollar and a quarter at the
market. You can usually multiply it by at least three, sometimes five."
WKennedy) "That's been the history of the fishing industry."
(Floyd) "Oh yeah. The fishing industry, to some extent, is like the farming. It's the
only two things I know where you produce somethi ng and you have no idea what you're
going to get for it until it's at the market. For example, a farmer can grow, let's say,
a thousand bushels of beans, and last year he got 80 cent a bushel. This year he might
not get 20 cent, or he might not even be able to sell them, if the market is flooded
with beans. Same thing with fishing. You just don't know what you're going to get.
It's a very unstable market."
(Kennedy) "In your lifetime in Florida fishing, have the fishermen ever tried to set up
their own wholesaling."
(Floyd) "We've had co-ops and there are still some co-ops around now. I think Mr.
Davis, who's the president of Organized Fisherman of Florida, that you saw him and
his wife on the little tape. I think he has a co-op down in Cedar Key. And they do fair,
but by the time you finish with administrative costs, there's not a lot of difference.
The truth of the matter is it's just like the textile industry or any other, from the
q wholesale cost of production to the resale, it's a pretty good ju mp. Furniture's
Probably the worst. There's a thousand percent increase in that stuff. But, in the
fishing industry it's always been like that. But we could always make a living on it.
We always complained about it, just like everyone does. That's one of your rights as
an American, is to bitch and gripe and complain. But the Amendment 3 has
*effectively, what Amendment 3 says is that there's use of no gill nets, no
entanglement nets in the state of Florida. That takes away the tramble nets, the gill
nets, every kind of net there is. Even our river shrimping said we could only have 500
square foot of webbing. Well, 500 square foot of webbing, to give you an idea is a 12
foot cast net."
(Kennedy) "What are the areas affected, inland and what else?"
(Floyd) "Oh, everything out to one mile. See now the boat that I have, that you saw,
the green one out in the yard, its 21 foot, hand made. I build my own boats. They're
flat bottomed skiffs made out of cypress and we build them to cross the surf. We
launch them on the ocean and cross over the surf to tend our nets. You have to go a
minimum now of 3 miles offshore, 1 mile for shrimping, 3 miles for gill netting."
(Kennedy) "People have been doing this ...... fishing, not really set up to go."
(Floyd) "Oh, no. Well, can you imagine being further than 3 miles offshore in that
wooden open hole batow of mine? With a set of 12 foot oars and an 85 horsepower
mercury that's as old as I am? No see, we fish traditionally January, February, and
Iart of March we shad fish. And we fight some nasty weather. It gets so cold. I've
ad my gloved hands freeze to a set of 12 foot oars I don't know how many times. I
mean they actually ice over. The salt water in the bottom of the boat gets a crust of
ice on it. That's cold. And you're in that boat 12 hours a day. And it's no fun, but if
you've done it all your life. I don't know, I guess it's like anything else, you'd miss it
if you didn't have it. Well, that 's gone, we can't do that any more. When we fini shed
shad fishing we always started whiting gill netting in the ocean. And we'd put out
600 foot pieces of net and I might have 12 pieces of 600 foot. You heard the man on,
save our seafood guy, well he's an idiot. I don't know him personally, never met him,
probably a nice family man and all that. But he made a statement that there'e
probably four or five hundred fishermen in the state of Florida. There's four or five
hundred fishermen in northeast Florida alone.
(Kennedy) "That's what you're supposed to do, don't believe what you hear."
(Floyd) "And I'm not saying that because he was fro Amendment 3. I think people
should make up their own mind. The only thing that aggravated the devil out of me is
that people weren't allowed to make an educated decision. They were given a bunch of
propaganda hype that showed, for instance, one example on one of the commercials
.ts hanging up and had dolphins and turtles and stuff up on them. That was a damn
apenese troller somewhere. We don't even use nets like that. Another one they
showed the Georgia bulldog with a stern heap full of by-product fish, juvenile fish,
and turtles. That research vessel at that time was dragging down in the channel at
Cape Canaveral, specifically, because I had the contract, specifically to develop the
jrtle excluder, they drug it in an area where we would never drag, and they caught
the abundance that they caught because no one fishes in that area because we know
that that's what's there. And they used that. And a matter of fact, in one of these
books, there's an article from the University of Georgia, really irritated because they
used it in that way that reflected on them when they had the fishermen's help in doing
that research. And that is what I was telling you a while ago, there's been things that
the fishermen have done to try to continue to make a living, to save the resource, to
make it a replenishing type resource. And it's been turned against us."
(Kennedy) "I hear you saying that there's not really any option for the people that have
been doing this type of coastal..... These cast nets that your making are not going to
be a viable option."
(Floyd) "No, the only reason I'm making these cast nets, Stetson, is because when it
gets to this time of the year the river starts just pulling you to it. I've done it all my
life. I get up in the middle of the night and I know the moon's up, but there's no place
to go. For me and the Davis' and people like us, it's sad. Those people just shut down
a fish house, a real small scale, not no huge fancy building, just a wooden structure.
They've been running that thing for 24 years. They've raised their children, fed their
childrenn, family. Not only that, they've bought the seafood from all the other
fishermen and shipped it all over the United States. I think they closed up about 3 or
4 months ago. There's an article in here, there's another article in here by Mr. Davis."
(Kennedy) "What kind of living can you make with a cast net?"
(Floyd) "I don't think you can mak e a living at it. For example, just as an example, in
the St. Johns River, which is a very long river, but the fish migrate in different trends
so you don't get to use all of the river. As a matter of fact, the laws now won't let us
go south of Shands Bridge for certain species. Then another species you can't go south
of Butman Bridge. See we've got over 200 or something laws in northeast Florida to
regulate the fishing industry."
(Kennedy) "Including cast net fishing?"
(Floyd) "Yeah, we're riot sure now whether they're going to let us legally use cast net
fishing because the D.N.R. and marine patrol has said they're going to put us in jail if
we go to 4 inch mesh. So we don't know. You know, I'm building some 2 and a half
inch mesh nets, but I want 4 and a half inch mesh nets because they'll catch better.
9 ut we don't know yet now what's going to happen. It's going to be a trial-and-error
(Neimeyer) "Can you explain, some of these people aren't from Florida, and they may
not know what gill nets, cast nets, and entanglement nets are."
(Floyd) "Okay, well see that's another important part of it. The gentlemen up there
said, made the statement on the tape that nets were just indiscriminate things that
just killed off everything. The reason that we went to gill nets 40 years ago was
because we wanted to target specific species of specific sizes. One thing that you
learn in for instance, a biology class, if you take the biggest egg-bearing species off
of reefs or out of the water, you're going to hurt that particular species because
you're taking the largest egg-bearers off the area. So what the gill net does is it
targets a specific size. Let's just use black mullet as an example. Black mullet can
go from, they can be caught in from a 2 inch net to a 4 and a half inch net."
(Neimeyer) "And we're talking about....."
(Floyd) "And when we say, right. The net is a diamond. I wish I'd brought one with
me. It's like a diamond shape. When you take the 2 knots and pull it straight it's a
straight line. And you measure the distance by pulling it tight. A four and a half inch
net would be about like that, a two and a half inch net would be about like that. But
they open up into a diamond shape and when the fish hits it with its head, its head
goes through, but he can't back out because of its gill plates, it would be something
* ke your jaw line. Okay, the good thing about a gill net is that, for instance, in black
mullet, we don't want to take the largest egg-bearing fish out of the stock. So instead
of using a four and a half inch net, we went to a four inch net. We let all the juveniles
go, we let all the egg-beares go, so "we're retaining the medium sized fish and we're
not supposedly hurting the stock."
(Kennedy) "Is that regulation, or is that something you did?"
(Floyd) "No, that's something we did. Then later on we had it made into regulation
because a lot of the fishermen wasn't doing it. And we wanted it done because we
wanted to continue to be able to make a living on that s species, generation after
(Kennedy) "Let me ask you a question in that same area. You've mentioned cutting
back on the fishing week and so on.The red fish moratorium on catching red fish as
imposed a few years'back was lifted after how many years?"
(Floyd) "Oh, God. The red fish is not lifted now."
ennedy) "It's still not lifted?"
IFFloyd) "No, I think as a commercial fisherman I can have one a day. And I think a
recreational fisherman has the same right, one a day. And it has to be bigge r than 18
inches long and less than 36."
Sennedy) "Are the papers telling the truth when they say their's been a big comeback
in red fish since the moratorium?"
(Floyd) "Well, yes and no. You know, number one, to make a point, in northeast Florida
there was never a market for red fish to start with. I used to catch with a73 foot
troller occasionally a school of red fish offshore as a bicatch product. And we'd ship
it to New York, we'd ship them. I couldn't get a quarter a pound for them. It's not
worth picking them up. Unless you caught huge amounts. Some of the guys around
Trout River and New berlin caught a few red fish. But we're not talking about enough
red fish to detriment the species as a whole. Yes, since the motatorium there are
more red fish. Of course there are, because the recreational fisherman, who number
250,000 in Jacksonville, are not taking home 6 or 8 of them a day. Stop and think.
You got, let's say in the Jacksonville area you got, and this is a wild guess guys, I don't
have any idea, 250 real commercial fisherman. And I'm not talking about recreational
fisherman, who have salt water product licenses and restricted species endorsements
and sell thier seafood to pay for their gas, which I think they have the right to do. I
mean if that's what they want to do it doesn't bother me. But, you can't classify them as
a true commercial fisherman. They're still recreational fisherman. They have a full
time job that they do and they do the fishing on the side. Okay, full time fisherman."
(Kennedy) "What does the state say about licenses for these .......?"
(Floyd) "Nothing. If you can qualify, you can be a commercial fisherman. It's the
(Kennedy) ".....just doing a little of both or selling some of the catch....."
(Floyd) "No. If you qualify to get a salt water product license, mine cost a 100 dollars,
per boat, and then you qualify by catching enough seafood, then you're required to get
a restricted species endorsement. You can catch every restricted species there is.
Which is a long list. Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, red snapper, black mullet,
drum, on and on and on and on. I tbink they've got toe fish on it now."
(Kennedy) "What's the point of having them restricted if they're going to have a permit?
(Floyd) "Well, see, that's the problem with the state legislature. The recreational lobby
is so powerful in the state of Florida that, because they consist of the entire
recreational industry, which is huge, that they can generate 3 or 4 million dollars to put
in the lobby and you know, so the legislature says, well, you know, next year we're
coming up for a re-election year. These people have a petition signed by 3 million
people. I'm not gonna tell them I'm not gonna give them what they want. So we're
going to make this.new law to protect the species, but we're not going to put so many
restrictions on it that these people can't get it if they want. That's one of the problems
with the law makers. There's never been a perfect law, I guess. There's always a way
to get around some law if you figure it out."
(Kennedy) "But if it's true there is a certain comeback on the red fish and it was not just
a cycle, I've been carrying around a notion in my head for some time that the same
way the farmer's allow an acreage to lie fallow for one year, recycle so that the
chemistry and such..."
(Floyd) "It's probably a good idea."
(Kennedy "Why does that system of letting things lie fallow for certain species. Have
the fisherman themselves or the state said that a certain species, this year we're going
to lay off so and so?"
(Floyd) "Well see, that's happening all over the United States right now, that very same
thing, they call it quotas. And the fisherman are willing to go along with it, because
we're willing to do anything that would continue, allow us to continue to make a living
and keep the species stock as a whole."
(Kennedy) "They're calling it quotas?"
(Floyd) "Right. In New Bedford, for example, a halibut permit in New Bedford right now
may cost you 300 bucks, if you wanted to buy one from a fisherman. There you can
only fish for a month out of the year on that particular species instead of 12 months a
year. These books right here, when you look at them, I'm gonna leave these. I've read
them. I've been getting them for 20 something years. I'll leave these so you all have
(Kennedy) "We'll get them back to you eventually."
(Floyd) 'There's articles in these things and, you know are on quotas and restrictions
and declining. They're not just all good things. There's some bad things about the
fishing industry, just like there's some bad things about lawyers and doctors. You
know, in other words there's always things, there's always room for improvement no
matter what business you're in. And the fishing business is definitely no different than
that. But what most people don't understand is we;ve been undergoing tis change for
* 20 something years. And it's not like we haven't been trying to change things for the
better so we can continue to make a livlihood."
(Kennedy) "Does anybody think or hope that the results of the net ban after some
years of......... that it will come back strong?"
(Floyd) "Well see, that's the biggest assumption, I think, is that if the commercial
fisherman are out of business, which we are, that in 3 or 4 years there'll be more fish
than you can catch for the recreational fisherman. I personally don't believe that's true,
because the commercial fishing industry take a certain amount of the fish stock, just
say like a pie. The recreational fisherman in federal statistics takes 10 times that much
each year. Okay, that's not a problem. But you combine with that problem the
pollution that we have in all of our rivers. You combine the heavy industry and the
chemicals, you know in Jacksonville. One treatment plant in Jacksonville, right now,
Buckman treatment plant, puts over 80 million gallons of treated sewage a day in the
St. Johns River. Combined with that problem, that we've dredged and filled over 50%
of the wetlands in the state of Florida in the last 50 years. Right."
S (Kennedy) "Do you think pollution or overfishing is the reason for the problems."
(Floyd) "I think overfishing has a great deal to do with it, but I don't think that you can
say that this overfishing by the commercial fishing. I think it's overfishing as a whole.
Recreational fishing and commercial alike. And I think that there's the fishing
business, whether recreational or commercial, has to be overseen and legislated, but I
think it has to be done like we were just starting to get a grip on through Tallahassee.
That all this information we've been sending out the last 6 years, finally they've
compiled enough of it to make some educated judgement as to what species may be
in trouble. And, okay, this one here we've had a decline, so we're going to impose this
new legislation that says this species, you can only fish 2 days a week or you can only
have so many a day. In other words, we were finally starting of jow to manage the
resources. But we really hadn't gotten to the point that we could definitely say without
a doubt that we were doing the right thing. Because time, it takes time to do that."
(Kennedy) "Does anybody know what the recreational fisherman, what their catch is?"
(Floyd) 'There's some federal statistics. They're astronomical. If you want to know just
go to Mayport on a weekend, on a Saturday or a Sunday, and stop at the wholesale
seafood house and sit there all day and watch the 40 and 50 thousand dollar
recreational boats backing up to Gerald Pack's freezer to put their catch in. Some of
them catch more than the damn commercial fisherman, because the commercial
fisherman, half of them can't afford a 50 thousand boat to go play around in the
snapper bank with. Same thing with king fish. Some of them come in with 3 or 4
hundred pounds of kingfish. They're not commercial fisherman but they sell
everything they catch."
(Kennedy) 'Tell us a little bit about the economics of the troller. You had one and it
burnt under you and you were 7 hours in the water you said."
(Floyd) "Right. The 73 foot Desco wood troller. It was mine. I lost it about 10 years
ago. It burnt offshore with me. The payments on it were 3 thousand dollars a month,
fuel bill was about 4 thousand dollars a month, ice bill was about 15 thousand dollars
a month, maintenance and upkeep, I don't even. Insurance was 12 thousand dollars a
(Kennedy) "Initial cost?"
(Floyd) "Initial cost of that boat in '70, no about '80, was $160,000."
(Floyd) "260. And there's not many wood boats being built nowadays. Most of them
are fiberglass or steel."
(Kennedy) "Was yours built in this area?"
(Floyd) "St. Augustine. Desco Marine. They're out of business now."
(Kennedy) "What people were building those boats, were they traditional
* (Floyd) "Oh yeah."
(Kennedy) "Were they Minorcans, or who were they?"
(Floyd) "Greeks, Minorcans, Eck Snider, Harry Eck Snider in St. Augustine was one of
them. He's long since dead. But a lot of Minorcans and some Greeks."
(Kennedy) "I remember Cousteau brought his boat in there. The only place in North
America where you could get a wooden boat repaired."
(Floyd) "Yeah, he tied up next to my father down there and we got to know him real
well. He was a very interesting man."
(Kennedy) "He said recently he came up out of the water...... came up from under water
saying, I don't know why I should be down there trying to save one more whale when
you people up here are trying to wipe out all the life on the planet."
O (Floyd) "We tend to, we tend to individuals to want to find blame to put on one specific
thing. We're never willing to acept any responsibility ourselves for things. It's always
been easier to find a scapegoat, a small guy, that can't afford to do anything about it.
Blame the overall problem on the little guy and the problem doesn't go away but all the
screaming and hollering does at least temporarily. For instance, if you have a lowly
enson on the bridge of a carrier and he runs into the frigot that they're taking fuel on,
it's never the captains fault, it's the enson's fault. Well it's the same thing in the fishing
industry or politics or anything else. The trickle down theory, you know, the lowest guy
on the totem pole is the one who's going to catch the dickens about whatever
happened. It's human nature. In my opinion, that's what's happened to the
commercial fishing industry."
(Kennedy) 'Tell us a little something about technology and what's it's done to the
fishing industry and the fishing lifestyle. You were talking earlier about the pogey
boats, for example in Mayport."
* (Floyd) "When I was a kid, and I never was out on them because I was just a little kid. I
can barely remember them. There was a pogey plant in Mayport, and they still had the
3- masted hundred and something foot schooners and that's what they used to per
seine off of. I met an old black man. I'll never forget him. I'm sure he's been dead for
years. I couldn't even tell you his name. He pulled those nets by hand before the
mechanization of the industry and the industrial revolution. Now what they would have
to do, these nets were huge. Well you could circle at least this whole building with 1 of
the perseines and the webbing was, I don't know, probably 50 or 60 foot."
(Kennedy) "Were they pulled by hand and .......?"
(Floyd) "Right. Pull it by hand and you'd row it out with double ended dories and the
mother ship would lay to, the big schooner,and then you would pull them up by the
webbing. You'd just reach over the side and stick your fingers into the square meshes
and fall backwards. And there would be like 15 or 20, black and white alike, guys that
were workers and they would pull it. And they would sing their songs to pull it with so
they would all keep rhythm because everyone would reach down at one time and get
hold of the webbing and stand up and then fall backwards. And then the next guy
would reach over and get it. And it would take hours to retrieve that net, with like a
million barrels of menhaden."
(Kennedy) "I recorded some of those songs in 1937 out of Mayport. That one called
'That Johnson Gal is a Mighty Fine Gal'."
(Floyd) "It was similar to the cadence used in marches. It gives everybody the same,
your left foot hits the floor at the same time. This guy though, his hands were probably
3 times as big as mine. They were like this wide and like this, but his fingers didn't
come off the hand like a normal persons. He had pulled those nets for so many years
that his finger back on the at webbing. It was amazing. He was like 65 when I met
(Kennedy) "A pogey boat, that's a menhaden?"
(Floyd) "Yeah, right."
(Kennedy) "And they were used not for food, but for?"
(Floyd) "No, they ground them up for fertilizer, fish meals, that were used for feeding,
they feed cattle with them. Just all sorts of things. They extracted the oil out if them for
a lot of things."
(Kennedy) "Are they still out there?"
(Floyd) "Yeah. As a matter of fact, we don't have a fleet here in Fernandina or Mayport
anymore. When the sailing died out that died out here too. But in the Gulf, Louisiana,
(Kennedy) 'They're still using for fertilizer?"
(Floyd) "Mostly cattle feed now. It's very high protein. They use them on the feed lots,
where all the beef, when they're trying to grow...."
S (Kennedy) 'What's your opinion on using fish like that for fertilizer and cattle food?
What's the effect on the food chain out there?"
(Floyd) "Well, I think probably the biggest thing you would consider would be whether
or not you're hurting the fish stock of that species. As long as you're not hurting the
fish stock, so you can maintain that species forever, then taking of it would be up to the
financial aspects, where the best money was at. It's just like growing a potato patch.
You're going to eat the potatoes out of it, but you don't want to take, take, take without
replanting or you won't have anything else to eat."
(Kennedy) "You're not affecting, not breaking into the food chain at any point that
you're affecting the catch on other species."
(Floyd) "Right, exactly. Everybody knows that's had basic Biology 101 the food chain
starts with a dinophlagulates and algaes and stuff and works its way right on up to us,
which is the biggest taker and carnivore and all that. And that's very important. But
see, that's what affected a lot of our species. The pollution, dredging and filling, and
all the other environmental impacts have changed our food chain."
(Kennedy) "They're doing more to put you out of business than they are to control
(Floyd) "Oh yeah, they're not concerned with that. If you stand up, I've spent years at
city council meetings fighting the closing if the river and tributaries. And if you try to
explain to them that you're not the major problem, you're part of the problem, maybe,
but not the major problem. They don't want to hear it. They'll tell you, that's another
issue. We'll talk about that some other time. But it's not another issue. It's all
combined. Everything, you know, it's like your home life and your education. They're
separate entities in one respect, but in the overall view your home life reflects on your
education, your education reflects on your home life. You can't separate the two."
(Kennedy) 'Tell us something about what all this is doing to the lifestyle of fishing
people. You mentioned the festival at Mayport which, for example, you did on your
(Floyd) "We used to have a get together, we call a festival at Mayport. Our little fishing
village every year and fishermen that were born and raised and spent a lot of time
there came from all over the United States and we'd have a little. You know, every
one would donate the fish and we'd cook them up ourselves and there might be
seven, eight hundred people there, something like that. You'd see fisherman from as
far away as Alaska. Well, the city decided that they wanted to get involved in it. The
Chamber of Commerce got involved in it. And we don't have it anymore persay.
Because it got so commercial that it lost the basic concept for people to get together
instead of just having little booths with trinkets that you buy up and down the street."
(Kennedy) "You said you cleaned a thousand pounds of fish, all voluntarily."
(Floyd) "Oh, yeah. A bunch of us just jumped in and cleaned them."
S (Kennedy) "And you cooked it and gave it all away."
(Floyd) "Yeah, it was free. Everything was free."
(Kennedy) "But the Chamber took over and now it's...."
(Floyd) "Yeah, the first year that they took over they donated $5000 for marketing and
advertising and getting the little booths set up to sell, you know, all the stuff you see at
any festival. The little trinkets and crap that you buy and take home and it breaks the
first day or you don't see it, you know. They just ruined it. So we don't have it
anymore. What is now the Jacksonville Jazz Festival used to be the Mayport Jazz
Festival, started by us. I don't know, I don't keep up with years, 10 years ago, 12 years
ago. Anyway, we had it the first couple years. It got so big we didn't know what to do
with it. Jacksonville wanted it because they could see the money and the jazz known
people that were showing up."
(Kennedy) "It got so big they couldn't park them."
(Floyd) "No, we had to park. They couldn't get in there. I think the second year we had
something like 75 thousand cars. I mean it was just humongous. It was scary it was so
big. It was like raising a kid that keeps growing and you can't do anything with it."
(Kennedy) "Do you remember the first class I said something about wanting to know
whether it was folk or not, ask the question did somebody invent it to make money.
Here we're talking about a bonafied folk festival, that started out with volunteer labor
cooking and giving away the fish, and somebody decided they could make money at it.
So both the shrimp festival and the jazz festival went that route. It's still jazz, but it's
still called business."
(Neimeyer) "Stetson, should we open it up to questions?"
(Student) "With the net ban, you can't use the certain type of nets. What type of nets
are there left to use?"
(Floyd) "Basicly what they've done, the way they've phrased the law, and they've
always been like this. Politicians, and people that want something, have ways that
they phrase certain sentences, just one letter or one word in a sentence can make a lot
of difference in making laws. They've phrased the law so that we don't have any way
to make a living. All we can use is a cast net. And you can't make a living with a cast
net. You can't feed five kids and pay a mortgage and you know, all that with a cast net.
It's not possible."
(Neimeyer) "Explain what a cast net is."
(Floyd) "Well you know, most of you probably know. Your dads had one or your
brother or your sister. It's just one of those things that you pick up like that, pick part of
it up and sling it out there and it opens up, 4,5,or 6 foot, depending on the size of the
cast net. We throw 12, 14 foor cast nets."
(Kennedy) "What does a 12-footer weigh?"
(Floyd) "Sixteen pounds."
(Kennedy) "And how many does it take to throw it?"
(Floyd) "Oh my God. Over a hundred."
(Kennedy) "It's a hard life."
(Floyd) "Oh, oh yeah. Some of my friends got no shoulder joints. They're still heavily
muscled, but they can't throw the net no more because it's bone on bone what's left in
there. They're in their sixties and their fifties. It's a hard life. It's not a life that you
would literally do unless you, for some reason, just felt this urge to do it and that you
loved it. I've hated the business all my life. But then I love the business. I've got out of
it. I can remember telling my father I wouldn't be a commercial fisherman if I was the
last person on Earth and it was the last thing in the world to do. I want out of it. I don't
want to be in it. I started college and got drafted. Went to Vietnam, got back, went
back to school, got my degree in biology, and went straight back into the fishing
(Kennedy) "I was talking to the fellow that has a crab dock out in Mandarin and he said
all the old-timers in World War 2, all they could think about was getting back on the
(Floyd) "When I got out of the army in '69, they offered me a big promotion and money
and all that to stay in. I told them there's only one thing I want. That's a plane ticket to
Mayport. The plane don't go to Mayport, but I'll go to Jacksonville and I'll get there
from there. When I got out of the service it was a terrible year in the fishing industry.
All of my friends I grew up with had been out on the dredge boat, cutting the river
deeper. It must have been about 25 or 30 of us. So I went and got a job on there so I
could be around my friends and shoot the bull. Because we had these great big bull
sessions, maybe as many as in this room right here, we'd sit around and tell some of
the most outrageous lies about some of the fish that we caught years before."
(Kennedy) "Did you ever record them?"
(Floyd) "No, and it's really a shame. I t is so much fun."
(Kennedy) "If you see another session coming, give us a call."
(Floyd) "I had a guy tell me one time, one of my best friends, or used to be. We got in a
fight over a woman. And he was wrong and I was right, of course. And it was a silly
thing that happened sometime in life and we're not as close as we used to be. We're
still friends. We still talk. But we had been fishing in Coon Point. And that's not a
reflection on black people. It was on raccoons. I guess 30 years ago and we had this
little piece of ........ We had to row up there from Mayport, which is about 8 miles. So
we caught the flood tide and we rowed up there. We stayed all night and we didn't
catch enough to eat. And 20 years later, he's standing around, we're all standing
around and he's telling this story about this night. He can't remember who went with
him. And we caught 900 pounds of speckled trout, 600 pounds of red bass, all these
damn fish. And I'm, and he's telling this story, and it was me that was with him. We
didn't catch enough to eat. But you never say, well you're a damn liar, we didn't catch
anything. It would ruin the atmosphere. You let them just keep adding to this stuff,
year after year. We could sit around and make a fortune catching fish while we're
talking. But effectively we have no nets. We're out of business. The only reason that
* I'll go back and cast net is because, it's like a farmer. You've got to go back to your
roots. I just spent probably 40 hours working on a rowboat that I have. It's older than I
am. It should have been thrown away years ago. But it's part of history. How can you
just throw it away. You know, what do you do with it? Give it to a restaurant to put out
front, I don't know."
(Kennedy) "I've got some cars I feel like......"
(Neimeyer) 'There's a question right back there."
(Student) "Where do we get all the seafood now?"
(Student) "Where does it all come from?"
(Floyd) "We've never produced enough seafood to meet the demands for seafood to
start with, number one. We've only probably produced 25% of the seafood necessary
for the consumer. So a lot of stuff is shipped from the Carolinas, new Jersey, Cape
May area. A lot of it is from Alaska. A tremendous amount now is being farm raised in
Brazil, Venezuala, China. China dug a thousand lakes to raise pond grown shrimp in.
Several years ago they said they were going to dig a thousand more every year, but
unfortunately for them, it's a real shame, they had a bacteria get in their lakes and
knocked out, almost knocked out 100% of their stock. So our prices went back up.
They were killing us. They could ship in 5 pound boxes of frozen head peeled shrimp
for less than we could produce them. They didn't quite have the taste of the freshness
that ours did. But see that's the only thing we had going for us is freshness. You could
come down to the seafood market and watch us unload the seafood and take it home
with you. Whereas the stuff now that you're going to get is gonna be from overseas
and be frozen and thawed out 2 or 3 times. It's not going to have the flavor. But
unfortunately, most consumers wouldn't know whether they were eating red snapper
or porgy. In other words they haven't eaten enough red snapper so that's, let's say,
* when they go into a Captain D's or, what that's thing where they sell the shrimp, Red
Lobster. You don't know what you're getting. Mostly you're getting bread. You know,
you bite into a shrimp that's got a quarter inch of breading on it and you've got a little
tiny shrimp that came from Alaska inside of it. It'll be all shipped in.. It just won't be
fresh and the price is going to go up double probably."
(Student) "I don't know. I guess there's no easy solution to it, the whole net ban
problem. But have you thought about what you can do in the next few years. I mean,
you've got a college degree."
(Floyd) "Well, there's not a whole lot we can do. Number one, the fisherman make just
enough money to feed their family. So we don't have this big warchest of money. We
knew what was happening when this thing started. I've known what was happening
for over 20 years. I've fought it all the way through talking to people and trying to have,
make people realize that fisherman are not all ignorant backwoods people that would
shoot you. We don't like to fight all the time and drink all the time. A lot of us have
college educations. It's just that's what we decided to do'for a living. Unfortunately it
would be like one person trying to fight a millionaire, who could hire radio and TV stuff
and has lobbyists in the state spending God knows what on them, to convince people
that this is something that's really needed. If we had had the funds, say 3 years ago, to
fight this thing the way it should have been fought. And all I would have asked is that
we could educate the public, the people in the state of Florida, and we educate them in
what is really the truth of the matter. And them let them make an informed decision. I
would have been, if they had outlawed it, I'd have said, hey, it must be for the best
because everybody said so. But the problem is it wasn't done that way at all. It was
all a big propaganda thing. Worse than the Russians during the Cold War. And
people in Florida thought, this is just my opinion now, people in Florida thought they
were doing the right thing. But they're gonna find out that they didn't and it's too late
because when an amendment's been put in, I can't change that, nobody can change
it. But the people of the state, you know, got together and said, this is what we want."
(Neimeyer) "So, it's a state constitutional amendment?"
(Student) "What can be done to overturn it?"
(Floyd) "I don't know what would be required to overturn it, but it would be
astronomical. It would have to be declared unconstitutional. We spent, the people of
Mayport, we put 25 thousand dollars into a lawyer to see if we could have it declared
unconstitutional. The judge wouldn't even listen to it. He just said, nah, no way. Of
course the lawyer didn't give back the 25 thousand dollars."
(Kennedy) "That's probably why they put it in the Constitution and not just an ordinary
statute. If you put something in the Constitution it's awfully hard to overturn it."
(Floyd) "They have a thing they came up with a few years ago, which was the
beginning of the end, called the Marine Fisheries Council. It was made up of Eddie
LeMasters, which is the guy that owns Ponte Vedra. The country clubs, the golf
courses and all of that. I can remember Eddie when he didn't, well I can't say that. I
can remember him when he didn't have anything. Thirty years ago. And he married
the daughter of a very rich man and became very wealthy. Well him and about 7
others like him make up this committee that make reccomendations to the governor of
the state, that doesn't even have to be voted on. They'll make a reccomendation,
they'll say, well, we think that the fishermen should not be able to fish weekends
because they're getting in the way of the recreational fisherman. And if they governor
says, well, they reccomend it. He has never turned anything down that they have
reccomended. We lost our weekends, then we lost Friday. Then we lost half of
(Kennedy) "This was by law? They passed laws?"
(Floyd) "We lost the loops on our nets. We lost, we could only have one net in the boat
at a time. You know, you couldn't have 2 nets, so if you made a strike at a group of fish
and you missed the fish, that you could try again. You'd have to redo that net in order
to try again. By then the tides changed. I could list you hundreds of things that we've
lost in the last 20 years. We lost Jacksonville Beach to seining and gill netting. We
can't launch our boats off there. Then we lost Neptune and Atlantic Beach. Then the
navy decided we were a security risk. For Christ's sake, I was in the Army. I fought in
Vietnam. I got an honorable discharge. How could I be a security risk? You know, if
that's so give me a security badge. Run a clearance on me. I had clearance when I
was in the army. I was in Special Forces. I had clearance to go up to I don't know
where. But, you know, it's not that any of that problem was, none of it was the problem
that they wanted to get rid of. It's just that they wanted to get rid of you. And they
wanted to use any way, any means to do it. It doesn't matter whether it was right or
wrong, or whether it was true or false. And we lost the base. And when we lost the
base, then we had to get into our boats and leave from Mayport and go fight the bar.
Across the bar which is always nasty weather. Once you're over the jetty rocks then
you're in open ocean. The nastiest place there is...........(side 2) That's fine. That's
your right as a voting citizen. But for God's sakes, at least be sure that when you say
you want this outlawed that what you're saying is what you want. And I think in the
case of Florida that's not the case at all. I don't know how many people have come up
to me. Because when you come up to shore with a boat somewhere, people always
come up. And they say, you know, I really had no idea when I voted for this thing that
what was going to happen has happened. I didn't really think it was going to put
everybody out of business. I didn't really think I wasn't going to be able to get my bait
minnows or my live shrimp or this kind of stuff."
(Kennedy) "Have any states that proposed a net ban provided anything substantial in
the way of alternative employment? Put the fishermen to work in conservation, anti-
pollution work, raising shrimp like the Chinese, or something else. No one's doing
that, are they?"
(Floyd) "No. They make an effort for the media, so it's in the paper and the news that
the state's going to rehabilitate and reeducate and help the fishermen. So far the help
that I've seen is the net buy back program. I personally made 2500 dollars off of it,
which I don't hardly think is going to last me until retirement. Oh my God, I had miles of
net. I probably had 15000 dollars worth of net that I sold for 2500 dollars. Well
actually, I just had back surgery 6 weeks ago so I've been out of commission for 2 and
a half months. So when the buy back occurred I couldn't apply. I was in such pain. I
didn't have no feeling in my left leg, hobbling around. So I had to let other people sell
my nets and they required 50% of the profit in order to sell the nets. You know,
S (Kennedy) 'That was skinny in the end wasn't it.........."
(Floyd) "Well yeah, you can go to the state employment office, just like any of you can.
Not because I'm a commercial fisherman, that's your right anyway. And they'll give
you a list of jobs and if you qualify for them, you know. Most of the fishermen have
never done anything else. They've never worked on land in theirlife. I don't know
what they're going to do. I've had people call me in the middle of the night saying that
they're thinking about committing suicide. These guys are 30, 32 years old with 4 kids
at home. Don't know what they're going to do. Some of them have been drinking bad.
Their nerves are shot. Their under a lot of pressure. Their screaming at their wives.
They don't know what to do. You have to stop and think. What if you'd been doing
something ever since you were a kid. And a lot of them quit school in the 6th grade.
You know, because they said I'm going to be a fisherman. That's what I want to do. I
don't need a degree of any kind. I don't even need to finish high school. I'm going to
quit school in the 8th grade or 9th grade."
S (Kennedy) "You learn out there."
(Floyd) "Sure. You learn it out there. You already know it because you've been doing
it since you were a kid. Okay. Say you've done something all your life. Maybe you're
a secretary, maybe you're a waitress, or a bartender or whatever. It's all you've ever
done and then all of a sudden somebody comes up to you and says, you're fired. You
can no longer do this. You can't work doing this ever again. It's a pretty good setback
for you because you don't, you don't even know really where to start. In other words,
you haven't been the type of person that has a huge area that you cover. For instance,
fishermen have what we call a close home range. They may go, they may go
hundreds of miles. For instance, I've fished down all the way through South America
to Campeche Bay, the whole Gulf, all the states along the seaboard in my lifetime. But
when I get in my car, when I'm home in the fishing village, I don't even like going to K-
Mart. It's too far. You know, I can get everything I need right where I'm at. So we're
not the kind of people who take vacations to see the Grand Canyon. Show me a
postcard. That's good enough for me. It looks just like that when you go out there.
Who wants to go look at a hole in the ground? Disney World. I've never been. So
help me God, I don't ever want to go. Got no use for it. It's a great place for you all to
go. Have a good time. You know, I'll send my kids with family. Here's the money.
You all go. I don't want to go. We have a very close home range. So when you take
somebody that's kind of isolated like that versus someone that just goes to, you know,
all the musical things and theatre and recreational things. They have a lot more ability
to cope with something like that because they're more well- rounded. They don't have
the tunnel vision."
(Kennedy) 'Talk about mobility by water, by sea. You've fished a great many ports.
Your family stayed put."
(Floyd) "Stayed here. Sure. Oh I'd get into that 73 foot troller of mine and leave here
and 100 something hours later I'd be sitting off of Galveston Bay. And I'd fish over
there for a couple of months and then work my way back."
(Kennedy) "I always heard that fishermen come from a lot of different nationalities and
i (Floyd) "Yeah, most of us in Mayport our ancestors were from the island of Minorca.
Minorcans. And there were some Greeks. And then there's some Portuguese. We're
kind of like the United States. We're.kind of like the big old smelter pot. We've got ......
jumping everywhere. I don't know who's what anymore. My sister could probably tell
you about that."
(Kennedy) "Did the Minorcans come from Minorca or did they come by St. Augustine
colony way back when?"
(Floyd) "I'm not even really sure to tell you the truth. I've never put much importance in
what I am or where I come from."
(Kennedy) "That's what I'm getting at. Is the fact that they came from different origins,
different cultures, they all got along because they were fishermen."
(Floyd) "Oh yeah. That's what bonds you together. I've got a lot of good friends that
* are Portuguese. And in a lot of respects I can't stand them. And they feel the same
way about me, but we're great buddies because we do the same thing for a living."
(Kennedy) "You speak the same language of fishing."
(Floyd) "Right.Well, you got to respect somebody that works 16, 18 hours a day. And
you see them out there when you're out there. And you're sweating or you're freezing
and you're hands feel raw and you don't want to do it. But you know you got to do it
because you got a truck payment or a house payment. You can't not respect
somebody that works like you see these people work. Probably, what I think. I think
my banker told me one time. He said, Sam, I never will understand this. You guys
work so many hours, that if you were to go into any other business and put the amount
of effort into it that you do the fishing business, you'd be millionaires. But that's not
what we want to do. You can't get rain in your face in some office somewhere."
(Neimeyer) "Okay, let's only take one more question and then we'll have to break.
Who has a question?"
* (Student) "Do you know anybody that's like relocating to another state without the net
(Floyd) "Well, the problem with that is there's been several states. There's several
other states that we could relocate in and some of us talked about that. The only
problem is the other states said, whoa, wait a minute. You think we're going to take
the influx of your fishermen into our state and we're already having problems with our
fishing business. They've already passed laws that you can't even get a license.
Lousiana, Mississippi, all up the Eastern seaboard. It's not that they're trying to be
mean to us. It's just that they're saying, look. We've got to try to preserve what we've
got. We don't want 700 new families moving in here, taking what we're already having
trouble making a living with. If you guys get time and you'll look through these
magazines. Don't neccasarily read the articles, just look at the headlines on them all.
It'll amaze you how much trouble all over the world the fishing industry is in. It's not
just in Florida. It's not just in the United States. It's international. There's been a
problem with it for 30 years and it's gotten worse and worse. It's going to get worse.
It's not going to get better. I may be out of business and say 12 to 1500 other
fishermen in the state of Florida are out of business. It's not going to get better. There
S may be a few more fish around, but I don't know if you're going to be able to eat those
fish because a lot of them will make you sick. Because of the pollution."