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Georgia Fisherman Looks to Clean up Altamaha RiverAired June 4, 2000 - 8:40 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, in south Georgia, the Altamaha River is the bread and butter of a lot of fishermen, but the river is in trouble and some commercial fishermen are being forced out of business; others are trying to turn the tide.
CNN's Natalie Pawelski reports.
NATALIE PAWELSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): James Holland has spent most of his years on the waters of the Altamaha River. Crabbing became his livelihood, but this river became his life.
JAMES HOLLAND, CRABBER: This is a shell disease, it's harmless to human beings, but kind of deadly to the critters out here.
PAWELSKI: About 10 years ago, Holland and other watermen began to notice their fish and crab catches, as well as their incomes, getting smaller. But more alarming, many of the animals were diseased, deformed.
HOLLAND: They look bad, they cost the commercial fishermen money, because they can't keep it, because the general public just doesn't want to buy anything that might look like this.
PAWELSKI: With a group of other commercial fishermen and environmentalists, Holland helped set up the Altamaha Riverkeeper, one of 37 Riverkeeper groups across the country. It functions as a sort of neighborhood watch for the river, monitoring water quality, keeping an eye out for polluters, and working to protect the waterway.
ROBERT DEWITT, ALTAMAHA RIVERKEEPER: It's disturbing that this water this time of year should be clear, because cold water usually gets clear. At one time in this one county of McIntosh, my family employed 200 people in the oyster industry; today, there might be 20 people in the whole county. So that's the alarming thing we've seen, is the disappearance of not only the product, but the infrastructure to support the product.
PAWELSKI: Holland blames a variety of things for the decline of the Altamaha and its marshes: development, clear cuts, pollution, and dredge and fill practices that silt the river and its tributaries. He believes the poor water quality is allowing parasites to thrive and to attack and disfigure aquatic life. Holland says that although overfishing was a problem in the past, these days the shrinking catches have driven many fishermen out of the business. He vows to continue the fight to keep the Riverkeepers' mission and the river itself alive.
Natalie Pawelski, CNN.
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