Coast Guard Directs Removal of Abandoned Fishing Vessel

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. – The Coast Guard, in coordination with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Lee County, will oversee the scheduled removal of an abandoned fishing vessel that poses an environmental hazard in San Carlos Bay, Fort Myers Beach, Fla., at 10 a.m., March 10.

The 68 1/2-foot, wooden-hulled fishing vessel Melissa Michelle, built in 1977, was abandoned by its owner with a substantial amount of hazardous material onboard.

David Stein, a resident of North Port, Fla., purchased the vessel about three years ago and is the last registered owner of the vessel. Within those three years, the vessel’s ownership changed hands three times but was never re-registered in the new owners’ names.

Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg’s Response Department, in St. Petersburg, Fla., launched an investigation July 14, 2007, when, while conducting a pollution response in San Carlos Bay, they discovered the Melissa Michelle abandoned, embedded in mud and listing 45-degrees to its starboard side. In addition, nine 55-gallon drums containing an oil-water mixture were discovered on the vessel’s port side, which led pollution investigators to believe Melissa Michelle was being used as an illegal hazardous-material dump site.

The U.S. Coast Guard issued Stein several notices about the status of his vessel, but he has taken no action to resolve the issues.

Melissa Michelle is located in an environmentally sensitive area that includes wading birds, manatees, bald eagles, mangroves and salt marshes which could be affected by any hazardous material that may discharge from the vessel.

“Given the deteriorating structural integrity of the vessel and the upcoming hurricane season, should we have not taken action, it is likely that the vessel’s condition would have worsened and discharged pollutants into San Carlos Bay,” said Lt. Cmdr. Dale Folsom, Sector St. Petersburg’s Chief of Response.

Resolve Marine Group, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is scheduled to remove the Melissa Michelle, mitigate the threat of pollution and properly dispose of the hazardous materials. The vessel will be taken to a Lee County-approved dump site for destruction and disposal.

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