Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Nonprofit fishery suffers double blow from Florida cold snap, Haiti earthquake

DADE CITY — Busy signals. Phones that ring forever. Unanswered e-mails.

At Morning Star Fishermen, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting world hunger with aquaponics, it's an agonizing waiting game to reach contacts in Haiti. A devastating earthquake rocked the Caribbean nation on Tuesday, leaving thousands dead.

"Hopefully God is with them," said Hans Geissler, 68.

Geissler started Morning Star 17 years ago in an effort to build self-sustaining aquaponic tanks in developing countries. The group has three tanks that feed thousands in Haiti.

In the matter of a week, Mother Nature has dealt the nonprofit two cruel blows: The cold snap in Florida killed thousands of fish at the Dade City facility, and now the earthquake has devastated one of the countries that Morning Star strives to feed.

With reports of food scarce in Haiti, Morning Star is trying to reach their contacts not just to find out if everyone is safe, but also to make sure the tanks are functioning and able to feed the children.

"We feel so helpless," Geissler said.

Students come from around the world to learn at Morning Star's aquaponics training center on Old Saint Joe Road in Dade City.

In a typical setup, a large reservoir is filled with tilapia and the water is filtered by vegetables that thrive on the fish waste.

Geissler's organization has built more than 100 tanks throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, where he said the tanks can easily be replenished by fish from nearby rivers and streams.

In Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Morning Star constructed tanks at two orphanages and one mission for homeless children. Geissler said the tanks feed thousands.

Earlier this week, a magnitude 7 earthquake left millions of Haitians without power, water or housing. Bodies line the streets. Medical care is limited. Officials fear the death toll could reach into the tens of thousands.

Geissler and his crew have been able to reach only one orphanage in Fond Parisien, about 20 miles east of the capitol Port-au-Prince.

The building suffered only minor damage in the quake, but the emotional toll is immeasurable.

"They're frightened because of all the aftershocks," said Barbara Arthur, Morning Star executive director. "The children already have no family. It's pretty scary for them."

It is also too early to estimate the impact of the loss at the Dade City facility from the recent freeze. Geissler said the cold snap killed all the fish in the 20 tanks outside, about half of their total.

"I can't count until they start floating," he said. "All the fish right now, they're hurt."

Geissler's strong foundation in faith led him to start his mission. Now, he said it's helping him deal with the loss of his own fish and the suffering he sees in Haiti.

"Everything is in God's hands," he said. "And I'm not questioning God."

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at or (813) 435-7312.

To learn more about Morning Star Fisherman, visit or call (352) 523-2722.

Nonprofit fishery suffers double blow from Florida cold snap, Haiti earthquake 01/14/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 14, 2010 9:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays waste repeated opportunities in 5-3 loss to Blue Jays

    The Heater

    TORONTO — Rays manager Kevin Cash made a case for urgency before Thursday's game, in both actions and words, making significant changes to the structure of the lineup and sincere comments about time running short.

    Trevor Plouffe of the Rays reacts as he pops out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. [Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images]
  2. Spanish PM voices solidarity with Barcelona


    BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says his country is mourning in solidarity with the city of Barcelona and other cities in Europe that have been hit by deadly extremist attacks.

    An injured person is treated in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 after a white van jumped the sidewalk in the historic Las Ramblas district, crashing into a summer crowd of residents and tourists and injuring several people, police said. [Associated Press]
  3. Confederate statue: Why Bucs, Lightning, Rays took a stand


    They didn't want another Charlottesville.

    Marc Rodriguez, a member of the "Florida Fight for $15" organization, stands in protest along with other activists demanding the Confederate  monument be removed from the old Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Rep. Larry Ahern gets roughed up by Clearwater City Council

    State Roundup

    It seemed innocuous enough: an "end of session report" from state Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, to the Clearwater City Council.

    Then Ahern got taken to the woodshed.

    Rep. Larry Ahern is vying for a seat on the Pinellas commission.
  5. Hillsborough County erects wooden barrier to protect Confederate monument from vandalism

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County workers began constructing a wooden barrier around the base of the Confederate monument by the old county courthouse Thursday evening.

    A Hillsborough County construction crew erects a wooden barrier around the Confederate monument at the old county courthouse Thursday, out of concern about potential vandalism. [Courtesy of WTSP]