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…

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat Clyne August 17, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Since the early 1990′s NOAA has steamrolled their so-called “Stewardship” down the throats of the residents of the Florida Keys. Initially, they created an emergency designation to prevent ship groundings (Which was one of the biggest jokes of all since a NOAA research ship grounded at Looe Key causing the most damage to the reef in the history of the Florida Keys.)

But this justified (to them anyway) to bring in the federal “Water Cops” to enact laws and regulations that weren’t even on the books yet. Large fines were pervasive, some for merely stirring up sand with outboard motors. Private boats were impounded with huge fines levied on the owners for accidentally running aground or damaging some seagrass.

Congress mandated that they hold meetings with the public to get their input, but Congress never told them they had to listen to anything we said. So we’d go to the meetings and discuss our grievances and they would shake their heads and smile and tell us they would work on the problem so we the people would be satisfied.
So we the people went home feeling we had contributed to the betterment of our living and working conditions in the Keys. That is until we saw that they had gone ahead with what seem to be their original cunning, deceitful and unscrupulous plans in spite of our so called “input”.

This organization, NOAA, is one of the largest bureaucratic land grabbing organizations in our country today. They are accountable to NO ONE! Their soul purpose is to sustain and enlarge their bureaucracy while relieving us of our rights one regulation at a time.


Bill Allen August 18, 2013 at 6:11 am

When the government closed the inshore shrimping grounds back in the late 60′s by declaring it a “nursery area” and extending the closed area well beyond where it really needed to be, in order to run the shrimpers off, with the full support of the charter and recreational fishermen. Other regulations of course followed and ended a very successful industry without cause, studies etc. In effect they put thousands of people out of business, forced relocations, and eliminated support business’s and jobs for many people. In our efforts in the beginning we tried to warn the charter guys, that after they finished with us, they would come after you. You site the same issues and facts we used during our time, destruction of family business and traditions, based on invalid data, and no data at all. So good luck with your efforts, but I would suggest you find some deeper pockets than your adversaries have and locate the right legislator that you can make a large contribution to their re-election fund. Capt. Bill Allen ” retired”


CaptainCraig August 18, 2013 at 9:32 am

Excellent input and information. This is what I hoped for when I wrote my opinion above.

One thing of note that I left out. The previous meeting that was held in Marathon on a Monday at 9 am (where and when else would you hold a meeting concerning fishing regulations for Key West?) We (charterboat association Key West) retained attorney David Paul Horan to represent us. He was more than happy to attend and I believe he brought some of the attention that we needed to show that we won’t just be bowled over by knee-jerk band-aids placed by the Hitler youth. A special thanks to Mr. Horan for helping fight the good fight, he has always been willing to do the right thing.


Sherry Popham August 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Everything is still on the table. The SAC is made up of Volunteer representatives from all walks of Keys life, including commercial and recreational fishing. If someone is concerned, then they need to do their homework, so they truly understand the issues and the real objectives and take advantage of the numerous ops being provided for public comment. I will stress, do the homework, because many individuals, armed only with misinformation and arguments based on rumor rather than facts, have unwittingly used the opportunity to weigh in to publicly display their ignorance of the important concerns about protecting the resource their own livelihood depends on.


Brice Barr August 19, 2013 at 1:23 am


Not really sure what the agenda is or why there is an attempt and a giant Federal land grab trying to take the state waters away from we the people. We are just trying to make a living and are being conservation minded in the process. There are fishery laws that protect the fish. There are giant counsels state and federal that protect these fish. You say that every group is represented but some of the people who matter and represent us on these groups don’t show up to the meeting and thus are not allowed to vote. When they are not allowed to vote, it weighs as a 3 which is skewed to vote yes even when they don’t even vote. We are fighting a loosing battle and are sick and tired of loosing!! If all of this bottom passes as sanctuary (out to 130′), we will be left with two and a half miles of water to fish straight out of Key West. There is barely any reef in this zone and certainly no bar available for fishing. You want to protect a whole ecosystem? Nature Conservatory? They already own more real estate in America than anyone else. Do you really need more?


CaptainCraig August 19, 2013 at 1:39 am

Captain Brice Barr is far more knowledgeable about all of this and a bit more calm than I am. Sherry, please reply here to him if you like and I will stay out of your conversation.

Thank you both for your time and input.


CaptainCraig August 18, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Thank you for your response. So far, you are the only supporter from the “positive” side to respond to my diatribe.
You ask that we “Do our homework.” What the hell does that mean? What is the SAC? Please don’t assume that we, the ignorant working public, know all the inside lingo. Who are these representative members? We need names and titles because then, they will be held responsible. That is how the real world works. If I write to the local paper with an op/ed piece, I have to sign my name. Why do your members of the “SAC group” omit their info? Why is it incumbent on us to “do our homework?” I am on the water 3 of 5 days a week for decades. I really believe I have done my homework! So, Sherry, what do you do for a living? Why are you involved? In short, who made you in charge of the state and federal waters? And, most importantly, what is your agenda? Altruism? Right…

Still, I am asking the most important question that we all should be asking. WHAT ARE YOU ULTIMATELY TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH?

Do my homework… O.K. Besides fishing thousands of charters over decades and keeping records of weather, fish catches, and angler demographics, what else should I be doing? What exactly have I left out? What do you know that I (just another lazy fisherman) don’t know? I believe that I have in fact DONE my homework. I think it is you that has dropped the ball, fallen down on the job and screwed the pooch by not using your most valuable asset available; the thousands of fisherman that actually use the resource on an everyday basis. TALK to us and get a consensus about the facts. You come to us, we are busy working to support our families, which ultimately has been our downfall. I lose hundreds of dollars when I have to take a day away from fishing to make one of your unorganized meetings scheduled at the worst possible time for us. But, isn’t that your intention, after all?
Back to my homework, you have worked so hard to hide any information or your goals, and your website is amazingly confusing and disjointed. I have no idea where to start! However, I am willing to bet articles like this one are exactly what you don’t want.

FUN FACT: At the meeting in Marathon, you provided 15 (fifteen!) copies of the proposed closures. It is a forty-five page packet filled with confusion and unreadable charts and when over 100 people showed up (surprise!) you had the nerve to ask us to “share.” Like we all live together in some protesters’ camp. And when you saw our lawyer; well let’s just say your faces told the story.

This blog is an open forum and so far over TEN THOUSAND people have read this entry. By the end of the day, who knows… If you really give a damn about the ecology or the reef or fishing, diving, or the economy of the Florida Keys you would work hard to make sure everyone was educated and work hard for an open honest discussion. This has not been the case.
So, instead of blaming us for our stupidity of not knowing when your next meeting will be and (apparently thru our sixth sense) knowing your intentions either; just TELL US. Plain English. Right here, right now. Help us out. Tell us now the exact details of your proposal. Just this once show us “our homework.” Ultimately, what is your goal? What are you trying to accomplish? Thank you for at least giving us your name, and web address.

Again, everybody repeat after me, WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH?


Sherry Popham August 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Good Morning Capt. Craig. I don’t believe my statement above declared any position or took a ‘side’. I simply made the point that everything is still on the table for discussion – that being the exact reason for these meetings and the public input process. You asked what the SAC was and, in terms of education, that would be a great place to start since the members of this group (which has been working with the Sanctuary Staff for over 20 years) are your peers, neighbors and friends – all volunteers. You can learn more at the website you have shown above or even better, here is the direct link to the page which describes what the SAC is, who the members are, when the meetings are and what their objectives are.
Understanding the process and your opportunity to be a part of it is more important then what I think. And, in response to your question, I own a waterfront marine business which is totally dependent on people being able to boat, fish and make a living on the water so I, like you, have a vested interest in the outcome of this process. Thank you for taking the time to bring this important issue to the forefront with the stakeholders. The more involvement from all affected parties who take the time to understand what the issues and concerns are, the better the outcome.


CaptainCraig August 19, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Thank you for not cursing me out which you would have every right to do :)
I took you advice and started to do a little homework and read the names of the volunteers on the Sanctuary Council. They are people that I know and have worked with over the years. Some I was very surprised to see listed.
First, does anyone really think the no fishing zones have done any good? In my opinion, if you think so, you have your head stuck so far under the sand you should have drown several tides ago…
So, if we can all agree that they don’t work or don’t work as well as we had hoped for, then for Gods’ sake why would we expand them by one thousand percent? Has any data been gathered over the past almost twenty years that the no take zones have been in place? Can we see it please? Most of the members of the council do not spend any considerable amount of time on/in the water. No offense, but owning a marina or filling tanks and answering the phones to book two divers and a snorkeler shouldn’t be given much weight when asked about the reef… And it should be considered a great conflict of interest to ask any dive operator their opinion about fishing. Of course they don’t want us to fish their reef! And we sure as hell don’t want their divers/snorkelers peeing, kicking, sunscreening the reef either :)
And how come nobody ever asked me to be on the Sanctuary Council? Surely just an oversight…


Denny in Dayton August 18, 2013 at 2:21 pm

This is a problem all around our country. These special interest masterminds think they force us into their utopian dream.

I wrote a piece back in 2009 about these groups, driven by a “study” by the PEW fund. I was looking specifically at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area and the rules being advanced there leading to beach closures
and how it is just the beginning if you look at their studies.

The links and information I looked up would be quite applicable to your situation as well. Their strategy is to boil us like frogs, slowly by just advancing piece by piece area by area. As the saying goes; It’s time we all hang together or we’ll hang apart.


Robert Martin Callaway August 18, 2013 at 5:08 pm

This is not only a national problem, it is a world wide problem. The left wing environmental groups seem to be bent on banning recreational fishing. Take note what is occurring in Australia among other places. Visit Alvey Reel’s Facebook site just to get a flavor on what’s going on there. Cape Hatteras was just a start in NC. They are after the Core Banks now.


michael king August 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm

as a resident of florida this concerns all fishermen and woman ive planned for many years basicly all my life of living in the keys and just before I move there they pull this, there just some of hitlers little storm troopers trying to control America I hate people that run there mouths and have no idea of what there talking about, I have a friend that is a charter boat captan in isle marada and this will hurt everyone in the keys count on my help.


fishermankent August 18, 2013 at 7:40 pm


Whenever I see NOOA and fishing on the same line my blood begins to boil. Northern California went through a drought 2000 to 2001 and on May 31, 2002 NOOA completed their Biological Opinion on Klamath Coho Salmon. Working with another Federal entity, the Bureau of Reclamation, they worked out a ten year plan for the continued water sharing between farmers, Native American Indian tribes, and endangered species.
Obvious, as it is in many Governmental studies they never added anything additional for variable conditions. Something NOOA never took into consideration took place in September, the same year with the deaths of thousands of fish mostly Chinook salmon, also Coho salmon, steelhead and other species. It was initially estimated that 33,000 fish were lost, but the actual count was more than twice that amount.
It was later reported that the deaths were caused by fish borne diseases compiled with built up strss in the fish due to very low water flows.
See: (see
Also see:


jerome crowley August 18, 2013 at 8:10 pm

this travesty must be stopped in its tracks.i implore any one who reads this to respond.the keys have changed hugely since i started fishing there in the early 70′s.there has been too much development on formally pristine islands.if you were a local that did not own property,you can no longer afford to live there.from the massive development in north key largo to the housing boom on tank island,the keys no longer resemble what i saw in the seventies.water clarity and health has declined.the problem with the keys is to many people,few that fish.


Ed Walker August 19, 2013 at 3:36 am

“The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council is an interactive liaison between the residents and visitors of the Florida Keys and the staff and management of the FKNMS. In this role, and with the understanding that a healthy ecosystem is essential to the economy and quality of life in the Florida Keys, the SAC will promote restoration and maintenance of biodiversity and ecological resiliency in the South Florida environment. We will strive to achieve a vibrant, ecologically sustainable ecosystem and economy through application of the best available science and balanced, conservation-based management.”
In other words, we dont really care what you fish and lobster killers think. Our goal is to shut you all out of The Keys histotric fishery so the fish swim unbothered and remain vibrant, resilient, and happy.


Bob G August 19, 2013 at 6:57 am

I feel I can almost guarantee this is UN Agenda 21/ICLEI in action. The goal is to close off many, many acres of land and water to human use so that all the animals that live there can live their lives in an undisturbed by human manner. There seems to be no other reason for the committee to close off all this recreational water to human use. See if you can get them to admit that this is what the driving factor is. I won’t be at the meeting because I live in the panhandle. But I have studied Agenda 21 – this is what it’s all about there in Key West. STAND AND FIGHT!


James J August 19, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Just read!
A “film star” of many years had purchased a large tract of land near Glacier National Park, MT. He was complaining about all the deaths of deer, elk, and other wildlife on his property. After an investigation of the property it was found that the “Film Star” had installed a 10′ chain link fence around the entire property. When the “Film Star” was advised to remove the fence he was dumb-founded, and wanted to know why. He “put up that fence to protect the animals”. The warden then continued… “You have no water on your land, all these animals died because they had no water.
They all died because you built a 10′ fence to protect them.”

Sometimes helping is really hurting. Make sure you know what the hell you are doing!


raymond austin August 24, 2013 at 4:19 pm

I believe that fishing gives kids something to get excited about. I believe that by stopping fishing is in the bible. that no man shall buy unless you have the mark of the beast. I no that’s a hard pill to swallow, praying is the only thing that’s going to save fishing. from hatteras to the keys the (state and feds) nps don’t want any kind of fishing. I pray for all of those who wants to fish, but I gotta say, theres no hope in any government. so enjoy when you can, the devil will not win. go fishing


CaptainCraig August 24, 2013 at 7:49 pm



Dr. Ed Holliger September 8, 2013 at 3:31 pm

It is a God given right to fish. No one should have the right to take that privilege away from us. Of course there must be rules to control the population (aka fish count) and the few greedy bastards who cannot catch enough of whatever the target fish of the day is. To completely shut down an area or a fish species that is not endangered is insane. It goes against common sense and God who created fish to feed the masses one fish at a time. Sanctions can only lead to chaos and violence in an industry that is supposed to bring happiness and prosperity to those involved.


CaptainCraig September 8, 2013 at 7:24 pm

I think Dr. Ed sums it up for all of us. Moderation. Nowadays, there are just too many people on the face of this planet. If any one of us decides to get greedy, it greatly impacts us all. So, until we all decide to grow some balls and deal with the real issue confronting our future; OVERPOPULATION, then we need to have moderation. Take what you need. Feed your family. Enjoy the resource. Don’t stomp it out! THINK.

HOWEVER, don’t elect yourself GOD and think you know more than others and try to force your ignorant position on your fellow man by making the resource inaccessible. Collect data and put together a reasonable proposal. One that everyone can live with. I know that would take effort and could quite possibly cut into your happy hour, but it would be worth not having your house burned down in the long run…

In the famous words of the NM Sanctuary, “… it was just an idea.”


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: