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Okaloosa County approves removal of derelict shrimp boat in Joe’s Bayou in Destin

The Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners approved a Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Derelict Vessel Removal Agreement on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, to remove a derelict shrimp boat from Joe’s […]


The Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners approved a Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Derelict Vessel Removal Agreement on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, to remove a derelict shrimp boat from Joe’s Bayou in Destin. The agreement, amounting to $17,300, will fund the removal and disposal of the vessel.

The derelict shrimp boat had been anchored in Joe’s Bayou for over a year, receiving numerous complaints from residents. However, according to Alex Fogg, Coastal Resource Manager for Okaloosa County, the vessel did not initially meet the necessary criteria to be classified as derelict.

  • “That specific vessel received a lot of attention, a lot of complaints, and a lot of people wanting it to be deemed derelict and removed,” said Fogg. “But the fact of the matter is, it did not meet all the criteria that were necessary to classify it as derelict.”

Fogg explained that for a vessel to be considered derelict, it must lack any of the following: adequate means of propulsion, the ability to dewater itself, and good hull integrity which includes the ability to close hatches to prevent water infiltration.  An active registration is also needed to prevent the State from taking action.

“Those are very minor criteria to keep yourself from getting into trouble,” Fogg added.

It was only after the boat sank into the bayou on January 17, 2024 that it was officially deemed a derelict vessel, triggering the removal process with the state of Florida.

  • “Once the vessel has been determined to be derelict, the State gives the owner a month or so to be able to remove that vessel,” Fogg said. “If not, or if the owner doesn’t get the vessel into compliance, then the State authorizes the County to remove it.”

The FWC concluded their investigation on February 7th, giving Okaloosa County the authorization to remove the vessel. The County then applied for a grant to ensure that the removal costs would be covered by the state of Florida rather than the taxpayers of Okaloosa County.

“By February 24, we had the grant submitted to the State. They reviewed it and gave us the grant approval last Thursday,” Fogg said. “We now have to send our signed copy back to the State and they have to sign as well. So hopefully we’ll have a fully executed grant by next week.”

The removal and disposal of the derelict vessel is expected to improve boating safety by removing hazards to navigation, as well as restore sensitive marine resources and improve water quality. Morgan Marine, based out of Freeport, has been selected as the contractor for the removal and is expected to complete the job within a week or two once given the green light.

Fogg also mentioned a program available to boat owners who wish to turn over their at-risk vessels to the State at no cost, with no repercussions to their registration or license.

  • “If someone has a vessel that is in the water, whether it be tied up to their dock or moored out in the bay or one of the bayous, there’s a state program called VTIP or Vessel Turn in Program where you can turn that vessel over to the State for no cost,” Fogg said.

However, he cautioned that the boat must still be floating and in good condition for the state to remove it.

“The boat still has to be floating and in good, total condition where it can be removed by the State. Once it sinks, it’s considered derelict and it’s going to go through that process where the owner is probably going to owe tens of thousands of dollars in removal and disposal fees,” he added.

Fogg emphasizes the importance of proper vessel maintenance to avoid being classified as derelict and encourages residents to report potential derelict vessels to the Okaloosa County Coastal Resource Team.

  • “At the end of the day, we receive calls about derelict vessels all the time,” Fogg said. “About 10 percent of the time, those vessels are indeed derelict. But a lot of times we don’t know about some of these vessels that may have sank or maybe just showed up overnight. So please don’t hesitate to reach out.”

However, Fogg also notes that the process of declaring a vessel derelict is strict and time-consuming due to the legal implications of seizing someone’s property.

“It’s not a bad thing if you reach out, but please don’t be frustrated with the long process or when we respond saying that the vessel doesn’t qualify as being derelict,” Fogg said. “We take these derelict vessel removals seriously and work them as fast as we can in coordination with the State.”

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