A Fort Myers-based nonprofit has launched a Hurricane Ian relief program to support fishing guides and long-term community recovery.
Captains for Clean Water, a nonprofit that advocates for restoring and protecting Florida’s water resources, recently launched its Emergency Disaster Relief Fund to support the people and communities impacted by Category 4 Hurricane Ian, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the U.S.
Funds are being used to employ impacted fishing guides for services that benefit Southwest Florida’s healing and recovery, including waterway clean-ups, fishing charters for Ian first responders, and water-quality research trips with science partners.
Full-time fishing guides and boat captains who reside in Lee, Collier, or Charlotte counties are invited to apply for the program.
“Hurricane relief isn’t what our organization was created to do, but since this directly impacts the people that fight with us for clean water, it’s our turn to fight for them,” said Capt. Daniel Andrews, executive director of Captains For Clean Water. “This relief fund allows us to help impacted fishing guides help our communities heal. We’ve had incredible response from organizations and brands nationwide who’ve been able to plug into this program and directly support local jobs, relief, and clean-up in the wake of this disaster.”
Within the first week of announcing the program, nearly 100 fishing guides applied to take advantage of the work opportunities, and over 400 first responders signed up for fishing trips.
Waterway cleanups are already underway, and the program also supported recent red tide water sampling efforts in partnership with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and FWC’s Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
“Recovery is going to take years, and we want this community to know we’re here to help as long as it takes,” said Capt. Chris Wittman, director of outreach and engagement for Captains for Clean Water. “The response we’ve gotten from guides, first responders and other community members just reaffirms how much this is needed.”
The fund has drawn generous donations into the community, such as $50,000 from Costa Sunglasses, $15,000 from Orvis, $15,000 from Simms Fishing, $45,000 from Huk Gear, and many more.
Captains for Clean Water also partnered with Community Cooperative, a charity organization working to eliminate hunger and homelessness, to make $100,000 available for guide relief through their Lee County Strong Emergency Relief Fund.
Many companies have hosted fundraisers and donated proceeds to the fund, including 4Ocean, SeaDek, Guy Harvey, Journey South Outfitters, and the American Sportfishing Association.
In addition to the relief fund, Captains for Clean Water partnered with outdoor brands to make donated products available to guides and their families. The organization set up a free “pop-up shop” at their office where over 300 captains and their families loaded up on new clothing and gear donated by AFTCO, Columbia, Costa, Grundens, Huk, Olukai, Pelagic Gear, YETI, Salt Life, Caymus Gear, Southern Tide, and many others.
“The outpouring of support from the entire outdoor industry has been unlike anything we’ve ever seen before,” Whittman said. “Literally, hundreds of brands and caring people have provided everything from clothing and coolers to funding to support our relief efforts. If there’s a silver lining in this, it’s seeing the power of the outdoor community and what’s possible when we stand together.”
Other Hurricane Ian emergency response efforts by Captains for Clean Water included conducting search and rescue missions, communicating with government agencies to direct assets and support, setting up drop sites for critical supplies, delivering essential supplies to communities, clearing debris, establishing a guide transportation program to facilitate transport to the islands and dispatching volunteer crews to clean out flooded homes.
For information about the Captains for Clean Water Emergency Disaster Relief Fund and how you can give, visit the nonprofit’s website. 100% of donations go toward community relief and recovery efforts. Eligible fishing guides can apply for the program, and eligible Hurricane Ian first responders can sign up for charters.