Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Tom Wallin's Service, Gulf Legacy Endures

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Tom Wallin's Service, Gulf Legacy Endures

Article excerpt


Brett Wallin's voice is tinged in awe when he talks about what his late father, Tom Wallin, meant to fishing and the Gulf Coast waters.

Tom Wallin, who died of cancer in 2006 at age 59, helped establish guidelines for Florida fisheries as a member and chairman of the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission and served on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, a federal council that establishes fishery plans from Texas to Florida.

In that capacity, the elder Wallin sought to balance the livelihood of commercial fishermen with preserving the marine environment.

"You don't get paid to do that. That's out of the good of your heart," said Wallin, 37, owner of Walt's Fish Market. "I always thought he should have something named after him, but he was a modest guy and said, 'I don't need that.'"

But Brett Wallin, a fourth-generation fisherman, got his wish when the offshore reef M-2 was named in memory of his father. Since then, Wallin has been on a mission to enhance that legacy by raising money at the restaurant to plant environmentally friendly reef balls there.

The fifth annual Tom Wallin Memorial Reef Fundraiser is set May 22 from noon to 8 p.m. at Walt's Fish Market at 4144 S. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota. Money raised from a $25 seafood buffet, as well as live and silent auctions, will pay for more reef balls.

Last year, Wallin raised $20,000 at the benefit. Each August, since the fundraiser started, the reef balls are placed at the memorial site.

Since the program started, more and more fish are calling the reef home.

"I go down there and I see what we added -- I can't even count the amount of fish that are in those reef balls that weren't there before," Wallin said.

It's a popular home to grouper, snapper and flounder. It's also frequented by kingfish and an occasional amberjack, Wallin said.

"Some of my captains, they fish it -- why wouldn't they?" he said. "I've fished it and dove it."

Wallin is the latest in a long line of fishermen that started in 1918 when his great-grandfather, Claus Wallin, a roustabout with the Ringling Bros. …

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