Billy Burbank III
2014 Florida Folk Heritage Award
Third generation net-maker Billy Burbank III was born in 1951 in Fernandina Beach. Mr. Burbank began making nets with his father and grandfather at age nine, learning by observation, custom and practice. In 1972, he joined the family business, Burbank Trawl Makers, Inc., which his grandfather founded in 1915. He was a superb craftsman, but it was his inventiveness that set Mr. Burbank apart from other net-makers. His 1974 net design, the "Mongoose," drastically improved on the standard net that was used by most shrimp fishermen at the time. Consequently, Mr. Burbank was approached by NOAA and the Sea Grant programs of both Florida and Georgia to create a device that would protect turtles from being caught in shrimp trawls. In 2000, he received the NOAA Environmental Hero Award for his success at designing a humane and effective “turtle exclusion device” for the shrimp fishing industry. When the shrimp industry began to decline in the 1980s, the Burbanks transformed their business into Burbank Sports Nets and found national success creating custom sports nets for baseball, hockey, and other sports enterprises. Through his innovation and passion for traditional net-making, Mr. Burbank has brought national attention to Florida's First Coast shrimp fishing industry and to Fernandina’s maritime heritage.