Keys Guides Protest Everglades Park Waters Closure

ISLAMORADA (CBSMiami/FKNB) – Fishing guides in the Keys, upset with the government shutdown that has barred the waters of Everglades National Park, spearheaded a rally Wednesday telling federal officials to give them back their fishing grounds.

Boaters, kayaks, even paddleboarders convened near the park’s eastern Florida Bay boundary, which is less than a mile off the Keys, in protest Wednesday.

While the Keys state and offshore waters remain open to fisherman, the government shutdown-forced closure of the park’s shallow waters, since the first of October, comes at a crucial time as fall is prime season for visitors to catch prized gamefish, such as snapper, tarpon and more.

The Washington budget impasse that has closed the park certainly impacts visitors, but the fishing guides who depend on the resource for income have lost money and are frustrated with the leadership’s inability to pass a budget to reopen the Federal resources.

The fishing guides, while they find no fault with officials based at the park, are insisting the Department of Interior officials act to aid the situation in the meantime, or in the event that a budget solution is not reached.

“The park being closed means we can’t go fishing, that means we can’t make any money, and that means the days of fishing we are losing, we don’t get back,” said Randy Towe, a 35-year Florida Keys fishing guide who organized the protest. “Although we have offshore fishing, which is still good and that’s all fine, but a lot of people come to specifically fish in the backcountry for its beauty for the different species of fish.”

Participants aboard a portion of more than 100 boats protest the closure of Everglades National Park waters Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, near Islamorada, Fla. About a third of the 2,380-square-mile park encompasses Florida Bay and it has been closed to Florida Keys guides and recreational fishermen since Oct. 1 due to the Washington budget impasse. Guides have lost business and are insisting that federal officials do something to let them back in. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau)

Participants aboard a portion of more than 100 boats protest the closure of Everglades National Park waters Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, near Islamorada, Fla. About a third of the 2,380-square-mile park encompasses Florida Bay and it has been closed to Florida Keys guides and recreational fishermen since Oct. 1 due to the Washington budget impasse. Guides have lost business and are insisting that federal officials do something to let them back in. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau)

Towe said that more than 500 people participated in the rally to send a message to Washington.

“These are all people of the Keys, these are guides, these are bartenders, these are mates, they’re captains, they’re store owners, they’re hotel owners, residents, so it’s everybody getting together to stand up for what’s going on because this really needs to get resolved before it gets any worse,” he said.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.)

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