It’s not often that beachgoers see a shrimp trawler skirting the beaches less than a mile offshore and in broad daylight. That’s what happened last week along the Anastasia Island coastline as a 75-foot trawler made its way north and meandered close to shore, attracting the attention of vacationers.
As it turned out, the well-equipped “Lady Lisa” wasn’t shrimping at all.
She is one of four research vessels maintained by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. The vessel is the primary sampling platform for several state and federal projects. It works near coastal waters between Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and Cape Canaveral, Florida.
According to Pearse Webster, who has served as the chief scientist for the Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program South Atlantic Coastal Survey since 1989, a number of federal and state permits are maintained in order to conduct the operations and which allows it to operate within the one mile limit that apply to other large vessels. It has accommodations for three crew members and eight scientists, including a complete head and shower, as well as dry storage space for gear and cold storage space for samples.
Webster reported that on the recent trip catches remained generally light from Cape Canaveral up to St. Augustine.
“Atlantic bumper, spot, Atlantic croaker, and white shrimp were present in most catches,” he said in an email. “Our trawl tows are limited in duration to 20 minutes bottom time. This limits the quantity of our catch as well as greatly reducing the possibility of the tow harming sea turtles. We are required to notify FFWCC prior to sampling.”
Lady Lisa is no stranger to local waters. She visits here three times a year. In fact, the trawler was built in St. Augustine in 1980 by St. Augustine Trawlers Inc. and operated out of Bennett’s Point, South Carolina.
But it was not the shrimp business that its owners had in mind.
According to newspaper reports, on Nov. 26, 1980, U.S. Customs agents and members of the Colleton County, South Carolina, sheriff’s department investigated a call regarding drug activity at the site.
The officers found bales of marijuana on nearby concrete and conveyer belts. In plain view, tags reading “Lady Lisa” were attached to the bales. The seven crew members onboard were read their Miranda rights and placed under arrest. The Lady Lisa was confiscated and in 1989 became part of the cooperative effort to facilitate the collection, management, and dissemination of fisheries-independent data from the waters of the southeastern United States.
Lady Lisa’s next visit to local waters is scheduled for late October or early November.
• Last week’s sea turtle nests count increased to 540 along St. Johns County beaches with 432 on the North beaches, 96 on Anastasia Island and 11 at Matanzas Inlet South. Fifteen of those nests have already produced more than 1,300 hatchlings.
Once a turtle lays the eggs, she vacates the nest, leaving the fate of the eggs/hatchlings to nature. Each nest generally contains 100 or more eggs. As the eggs hatch after approximately 60 to 90 days, the hatchlings begin their adventures in life by heading to the sea. Statistically only one in 1,000 will survive and make it to the adult status.
Approximately 100 trained volunteers (called the “Turtle Patrol”) observe the county’s 41 miles of beaches during sea turtle nesting season to document the locations of sea turtle nests. Anyone who encounters a sea turtle in distress is asked to call 824-8304.
Looking ahead …
• Soulfire, with music from the 1970s, will highlight Wednesday’s free Music by the Sea concert. The summer series, sponsored by the St. Augustine Beach Civic Association, at the St. Johns County Pier, 350 A1A Beach Blvd., features a different band or performer and restaurant each week. This week’s featured restaurant is Little Margie. Food is served at 6 p.m. The music begins at 7 p.m. Visitors may bring their own food and beverages or purchase a dinner for $10 or less.
Go Get Gone, playing rockabilly music, will be the featured performers at the Aug. 9 concert. The South Beach Grill will offer dinner.
The series runs through Sept. 13 from 6-9 p.m. each Wednesday.
For civic association membership, the remaining 2017 concert schedule, parking recommendations and other information, visit www.sabca.org, call 347-8007 or email email@example.com
• Friends of Washington Oaks Gardens State Park plan several events in August for all ages, including:
— First Friday Garden Walk, Aug. 4, 10-11 a.m.: Join a ranger-led one hour walk through the historical park. Bring water and wear comfortable shoes. Meet at the garden parking lot.
— One hour Family Beach Walk (Aug. 7, 10-11 a.m.) will include a beach scavenger hunt while learning about shells, sea turtles, coquina rocks and more.
— The park’s end of summer plant sale (Aug. 12, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) will include the lowest prices of the season. Master gardeners will be on hand to answer questions about Florida friendly plants and novelties for home and yard.
The park is located two miles south of Marineland at 6400 North Oceanshore Blvd. off U.S. A1A South in Palm Coast. For information call 386-446-6784 or email Washington.Oaks.Gardens@dep.state.fl.us.
• The Butler Boat Ramp, which has been temporarily closed, is expected to reopen in early August. The area has been undergoing a dredging project to improve navigability for recreational boats. For information call 209-0193.
Contributed to the St. Augustine Record by Lorraine Thompson, July 28, 2017.