This is my life, the ocean, the tides, the fish.”
One of the few remaining commercial fishermen in Murrells Inlet is Marcus Ortagus. He is a strong built man with sunkissed skin and weathered hands from years of hard work. He has been a commercial fisherman for thirty-five years. He moved to Murrells Inlet, South Carolina from St. Augustine, Florida in the 1970s and has called it home ever since. He is in a committed companionship with his girlfriend, Jennifer Sing, the daughter of Captain Alex Sing, a historical fisherman who pioneered the fishing industry in Murrells Inlet. Captain Alex ran the first headboat for gulfstream fishing, carrying passengers for day trips starting in 1967 and ran Captain Alex’s Marina. He has served on boats all over the inlet -- Still Crazy, H&C Fisheries, and The Four Seas (until it was destroyed in Hurricane Hugo in 1989). While not born here, Marcus is about as Murrells Inlet as you can get. Marcus mostly bottom fishes with reels on “Bandit Boats,” small, lightweight aluminum fishing vessels. He has weathered the last ten years of federal regulations, which can dramatically increase costs and impact yield during certain times of the year. “There are good days and bad days but you just keep on going.”
It’s the power of the ocean that keeps him in it. “Experiencing the power of the ocean and the power of the ocean to take your life if you are not careful.” That power, that stubbornness of the sea is what worries him about an oil spill. “Once a fishery has been contaminated, you cannot change people’s perception of the quality of the seafood you are selling. Even the extraction of oil itself contaminates the ocean.”1 With wind, he said, "there is no risk with wind power, there is no oil spill; it’s safe, it’s clean.”
He’s already seen the changes in the ocean recently.2 “The tides run different, and the gulf stream has moved further out. The tuna have moved further out. You used to be able to catch a tuna right out there, close to the shore. Reel fisherman brought in tuna all the time. But now you have to go outside The Shelf.” He gestures in the direction of the continental shelf, about 45 miles off shore. “The water is warmer too. It changes everything. This is my life, the ocean, the tides, the fish. The days are long and hard, and sometimes the fish aren’t there but it doesn’t matter. I love what I do, and can’t think of doing anything else." 3
Proponents of offshore oil and gas production advocate drilling can be beneficial to the fishing industry but the numbers indicated something different.
Currently, changing climate is exhibited most prominently in the ocean and fisherman are starting to see the effects.
Sea-Level Rise- The oceans are not the same anymore. They are rising and changing the delicate balance humans and other life forms rely on.