Yep, I am trying to get your attention. But this statement, unfortunately, is not far off the mark. That is exactly the decision that is being made as you read this. Not something far away in the future, NOW.
August 20th, at the Doubletree Inn, Key West. See above for times.
Is it the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee (FWC) the same guys that took away Groupers for four months nearly killing all head boats in the Keys? Nope. Maybe the South Atlantic Fisheries Council? Surely then it is The Gulf of Mexico Council? Boy Scouts of America? CLOSE!
The Florida Key National Marine Sanctuary (the same group that was forced down our throats more than a dozen years ago even though the majority of residents voted “no”) is working with a “group” that wants to close fishing for Key Westers… (insert deep breath here) for every inch of bottom from the shore out to Eastern Sambos all the way West past Cosgrove Shoal. To save you a little bit of time while you look for your charts, that is EVERYTHING for a hundred square miles. East, middle and Western Sambos (Long Reef), Toppino, 9 Foot Stake, Eastern, Rock and Sand Key, and Western Dry Rocks. Satan and Vestal Shoal, CB Buoy and Cosgrove Reef. All closed to fishing out to an arbitrary depth of 265 ft. of water. Why 265 feet? “Why not” was the official response. I kid you not!
August 20th, at the Doubletree Inn, Key West. See above site for times.
So, who is this group? Well, despite the vacuum of information, their chairman is Chris Bergh. You’ve heard of him, right? Yeah, me neither. He is the Conservation and Environment Chairman.  Well, it probably looks killer on his business card (mine says “Part-time Ruler of the Universe”) ” Hey, isn’t he the guy that comes by the dock all the time and chats us up about what we think about the reef and the fishing and all the up to date tiki tiki so that he can really get a handle on the reality of life on the water, and gets on the radio and visits the bait and dive shops?  You know, the guy with the weathered features that spends all his time on his boat actually doing all the activities in the Environment and learning the Conservation, and shaking hands and learning names and getting to know the actual users of the very resource that he is claiming to know so much about, etc??”  No, that’s not him…

Then there are the other three names on the “group”; not available. Yep, four folks decided at a shaded meeting that they know way more than the rest of us and want to protect us from ourselves.  I do in fact know some of the Sanctuary folks and since I am being brutally honest, most of them haven’t spent more than ten days a year out on the water or attended even 50% of the meetings.  Fact is, if you own a dive company, you don’t run your own boat and if you fish, you do and don’t have time to go to middle of the day meetings.  Sadly, that is how it works MOST of the time.

The Marine Sanctuary program has failed.  FACT.  Until you make an area off limits to diving, but allow fishing, there is no way to prove anything.  Since fishing is the only activity that has been limited, none of the data gathered over the entire life of the program is worthless.  And the enforcement has been laughable.   I was recently reminded of this as I trolled by Eastern Sambos (the “NO TAKE, NO FISH, NO DIVE, DON’T EVEN LOOK” Zone) and noticed two boats anchored down inside the yellow bouys chumming and catching fish without a care in the world.  And no, they weren’t Sanctuary patrol boats.  No enforcement.  By the way, what ever happened to those great big expensive triple outboard Sanctuary boats?  Who was in charge of that decision?  I dare you to tell us :)

As if there weren’t enough government entities doing this already (none of which support these proposals) this group of four is using “the most current fishing data available” from 1999 and 2000 want to stop thousands of users from fishing. NINETEEN NINETY-NINE and YEAR TWO THOUSAND is their most recent data, almost fourteen years old! Notice they aren’t trying to lower bag limits because that would require hard data; quite an effort to gather. It is just plain easier to close areas. Sort of like the original Sanctuary areas that haven’t proved to have done anything positive for the fish or coral. Nothing. No data, no facts, no enforcement.
Think for a minute, no more commercial fishing, no more charter fishing boats, no more lobstering or lobster traps. No more light tackle boats, flats boats, trolling boats, no bait fishing or cast nets, no charterboat row, no spearfishing on any of the wrecks or reefs. Like to bridge fish with your kids? Forget about it. No tackle shops, no bait companies. However, on any given weekend, you will know exactly where 266 feet of water is . And if you are a private boat owner that likes to take your family out on the weekends… sell your fishing rods now. They will be worthless in a short amount of time. Imagine the economic impact this casual decision by four people will have on Key West? But, you won’t need a fishing license anymore, that will affect Florida’s flush coffers! And I didn’t even mention the proposed rules for the rest of the Florida Keys, they are just as severe.
Please ATTEND! August 20t at the Doubletree Inn, Key West. See below for times.
If you think that since you own a dive boat or Dolphin watch your business won’t be affected, just think how fast some of these businesses will go out and buy snorkel gear and start running to the jetties in the NW channel to gaze at Flipper. I have been a full time Captain in Key West since 1986 and don’t plan on going out of business quietly!
IF YOU HAVE EVER CONSIDERED GOING TO ONE OF THESE DULL GOVERNMENTAL MEETING, PLAN ON ATTENDING THIS ONE. Yep, boring as hell. Yep, they won’t listen to a word we say. Of course, they will do what they want anyway, no way to stop them. BUT, if they see a show of force, an angry crowd so to speak, maybe they will think twice the next time they get together at happy hour and come up with another great way to save the world. Preferably one that doesn’t put thousands of their neighbors out of business. PLEASE, PLAN TO ATTEND. August 20th at the Doubletree Inn, Key West. Yes, they did forget to update their website to include this meeting and only posted the times a few days ago. Just an oversight, surely.
See above for times. Yes, they have changed the times of the meeting several times to avoid having anyone actually attend. “They can’t do that!” was the response from pretty much everyone I talked to in the business. But… Why do we think they can’t? They aren’t the government, they can do what they want. They can be as covert, disingenuous, and diabolical as they want. And there is nothing we can do… Except attend the stupid meeting, talk to our friends and neighbors, call the Citizen, get a dialogue going at work, throw a fit at your marina… JUST DO SOMETHING!!
Pass this along or you will be showing pictures to your grandchildren of how it used to be.

The number one question all of us should ask is:  WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH?


Here is just one example of a proposed closure chart.  The yellow is the already closed area (ineffective and unenforced for almost two decades and with no gathered data-zero) and the black lines are the random Federal water/Florida water lines drawn at happy hour…

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