For 33 years, Marine Resource Specialist Marty Higgins has assisted in the research and development of fisheries gear and advised conservation research while serving as the first mate of the R/V Georgia Bulldog. His work has helped conserve coastal resources while keeping fishermen in business.
Bryan Fluech, associate director of Marine Extension, says, “Captain Higgins’ dedication and commitment to assisting Georgia’s fishing industry has been nothing short of spectacular. I have never met an individual who is as respected by the fishing industry as Marty. Dozens of fishing families would not be in business anymore if it were not for his hard work and service.”
Born and raised in Brunswick, Higgins developed a deep, trusting relationship with Georgia’s coastal fishing community. When UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant was at the forefront of assisting in the development and certification of turtle excluder devices, or TEDs, which prevent sea turtles from being caught in shrimp nets, Higgins provided countless hours of technical assistance and consultation to ensure the devices not only met conservation standards but also minimized economic loss to fishermen.
Higgins has spent most of his career on the water, advising hundreds of research projects and making sure field gear meets state and federal standards for safety and performance. He has maintained the 40-year-old R/V Georgia Bulldog, allowing the crew to continue to support fisheries and conservation research on Georgia’s most valuable coastal resources, including loggerhead sea turtles and the North Atlantic right whale.
He also operated the Brunswick station’s smaller research vessels for both water quality and fishery needs and provided maintenance and support for the entire Brunswick facility so that faculty and staff work safely and efficiently as they carry out the service mission of the university.
Higgins provided welding and mechanical services to visiting scientists and local fishermen. His ability to repair, rebuild and maintain fishing and research gear has saved fishermen thousands of dollars on boat repairs and kept them on the water. Higgins’ commitment to public service has established the Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant program as one that is nationally recognized for being responsive to the public.
“If we had more people like Marty in this world, [the fishing industry] would have a lot less problems,” said Bruce Collins, the packing house manager with City Market Seafood in Brunswick. “He’s kept us educated about new fishing equipment and ways the university is supporting the industry. He’s probably helped every fisherman on the waterfront.”