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Everglades Rally to get Back Fishing

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Some of the 100 plus boats that protested the closure of Everglades National Park waters; about a third of which has been closed to guides and recreational fishermen since Oct. 01.Photo: Florida Keys News Bureau, Andy Newman  Some of the 100 plus boats that protested the closure of Everglades National Park waters; about a third of which has been closed to guides and recreational fishermen since Oct. 01.Photo: Florida Keys News Bureau, Andy Newman

Frustrated by partial shutdown that has closed Everglades National Park, and 400 other national parks across the country, fishing guides in the Florida Keys spearheaded a rally hoping to convince federal officials to let them back into park waters.

 

 

 

Source: Seattlepi.com

 

Participants aboard more than 100 craft gathered near the park's eastern Florida Bay boundary, less than a mile off the Keys. Although Keys state and offshore waters remain open to anglers, fall is a prime season for visitors to fish in the park's shallow estuaries for fish, such as snook, tarpon, redfish and trout. Guides who depend on that for income have lost money and are frustrated with Washington leadership's inability to pass a budget to fully reopen federal resources.


Islamorada guide Matt Bellinger, who owns several boats, says he has lost $10,000 since the 2,380-square-mile park closed Oct. 1. About a third of the park incorporates Florida Bay.


"We need to stand up and fight for what's right," said Islamorada fishing captain Randy Towe, who conceived the protest. "We elected these people to represent us and look at what they've done, shame on them.

This park closure is hurting innocent, hard-working people who haven't done anything wrong," said Towe, who has fished professionally in the Keys for 35 years. "Every day we miss is revenue we'll never see again."


Everglades superintendent Dan Kimball said there are about 350 fishing guides who have Commercial Use Authorization permits, and he is sympathetic to their woes as well as other permitted operators.


"We know how this is affecting people's livelihoods," said Kimball, noting the park generates some 2,300 jobs. "The guides are important partners to the park, and we want this matter to be resolved as soon as possible."


Kimball said the park's Florida Bay waters closure is consistent with the shutdown contingency plan at all national parks and added that 238 federal employees at Everglades have been furloughed.


"This is a nationwide issue and the best solution is for the budget impasse in Washington to be resolved as soon as possible," he said.


While finding no fault with Everglades officials, guides insist that the Department of Interior provides access, even if the budget is not worked out.


"Everglades is run at less than capacity on a daily basis for park rangers due to lack of funding," said Key Largo captain Tad Burke. "Professional guides are required to have a valid captain's license, insurance of $1 million and safety equipment. Why is it that with our current requirements we are not allowed to use the park?" he said.


Burke said that the Herman Lucerene Memorial Tournament is staged annually to benefit projects that support boating and fishing in the park.


"The most recent tournament, a few weeks ago, raised $30,000," he said. "The users who donated that money are now not allowed in the park they just funded."







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Comments (2 posted):

fq13 on 10/10/2013 17:11:17
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They should have just gone into the park. The Ten Thousand Island rivers are navigable waterways, I don't think the NPS has the authority to close them. And since the NPS answers directly to Obama, I doubt he would want mass arrests (and aren't the guys who would arrest them furloughed)? This was too tame by far. I'll probably be back down there and I intend to fish in the North end of the Park by boat. Ask me if I care its shut down. Hell, I've been fishing there for thirty years and never once have I seen a Ranger on the Water. Fish and Wild Life yes, but they aren't empowered to enforce federal regulations, as far as I know, so screw it. And may I just add "Get a Rope"! Lots and lots of rope. If someone brings the tar, we will donate the feathers.
wjc on 10/10/2013 21:14:15
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I agree with every sentence above and I'm a crochety old bustard.
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