Next in our Voices of the Delta series, you will meet Captain Troy Frady: Alabama native, owner of Distraction Charters in Orange Beach, Ala. and Gulf Coast restoration advocate.
Occupation: Owner/Operator at Distraction Charters in Orange Beach, Alabama
What does the Gulf Coast mean to you?
My earliest memories of coastal Alabama date back to the early 1970s. There were not many people on the water back then around Orange Beach, Fort Morgan and Dauphin Island. The fish were abundant and our estuaries were teeming with life. Over the past 40 years, I have seen things change from what I remember as a child. I have seen our coastal wetlands drained or filled, environmental pollution, overfishing of our marine resources, and residential and commercial development. All have contributed to the decline of what was once a pristine coastal environment.
After 21 years of working in the corporate world of banking and logistics, I decided to fulfill a childhood dream of making my living on the water. I took off my tie and hung up my coat and purchased a 41’ Hatteras and began charter fishing in 2002.
After entering the charter fishing fleet, I noticed that there were a lot of anglers who were overharvesting reef fish simply because they could. I wanted to be different and develop my niche. I began educating my customers about conservation and why it is important to release some of your catch. I had already seen what overfishing had done to the resources since childhood, so I decided to be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem. I began marketing “Keep the Best, Release the Rest,” to help manage fish populations.
The effects of the BP oil spill have complicated our fishery rebuilding process. It may be years before we know the full effects of what the oil and dispersants did to our reef fishery and the deep water marine ecosystem.
Why is it important to move quickly to restore all coastal wetlands and estuaries?
Over the years, our pristine coastal areas have been depleted and are in jeopardy of being gone for good. With natural events like hurricanes and manmade events like the BP oil spill, it is extremely important that we all do our part and build buffers around and restore our marine resources. The lessons I have learned in 40 years are valuable, and I don’t want to see future generations witness what we had a chance to correct.
How does the RESTORE Act fit into this process?
For the first time in our nation’s history, we have an opportunity to divert Clean Water Act fines, without using taxpayer dollars, toward projects that will protect our estuaries and marine resources from natural or manmade disasters. The RESTORE Act gives hope to all of us who make our living by educating and being good stewards of such a great national resource. It may be years before we know the full effects of what the BP oil spill did to our marine environment. Only through a robust research and monitoring program will we be able to detect delayed or subtle impacts, track the recovery of the injured species and implement appropriate restoration strategies.
One thing’s for sure — the seafood industry and recreational fishing are pillars of our coastal economy. Neither can prosper without the natural resources that support them. In the gulf, environmental restoration is vital to economic restoration. What we do today will have an effect on what happens tomorrow. Your children and grandchildren will love you more because of it. Restoration is the right thing to do.