Fly Life Magazine

Conservation: Let’s not trash another fishery!

Lower Keys Guides Association
Harbor Dredging in Key West
The area to be dredged is located in one of Key West’s prime tarpon staging areas off Fort Zachary Taylor

The cruise ship industry, and segments of Key West business support a new dredging project to widen the shipping channel in Key West Harbor so the city can accommodate the arrival of “mega cruise ships”.

We stand adamantly opposed to this idea! Such a dredging project would negatively impact the health of the area’s ecosystem in ways that cannot be anticipated. This project could devastate our fishery; one that has yet to fully recover from the last such event in 2004.

As tarpon fishing communities in Texas and Homosassa have learned, you can negatively affect the fishery to such a degree that the tarpon no longer frequent the area. We believe that dredging Key West Harbor could very well be just such an event and the repercussions could be permanent and devastating.

*Urgent Mail/Email Campaign:

The following is a letter that lays out our position on the Harbor Dredging issue. This issue will be presented to the Key West City Commission on October 17th 2012 at 6:00pm. If you believe strongly, as we do, that the natural integrity of the harbor is more valuable than the prospect of “Mega” Cruise ships calling port in Key West, we ask that you copy this letter and send it to the City Commissioners and the Mayor. It is vitally important that the Commissioners understand that many anglers from around the world care deeply about our fishery and how important it is to our community that it remain world-class.

Mayor of Key West – Honorable Craig Cates

City Commissioners – Jimmy Weekly, Mark Rossi, Billy Wardlow, Tony Yaniz, Teri Johnston & Clayton Lopez

Habana Plaza

3216 Flagler Avenue

Key West, Florida 33040

RE: Proposed Study – Widening of Cut B (copy the following to your email subject field)

Dear Mayor and Commissioners:

It has come to my attention that commercial interests have made a proposal to the city to fund a study regarding the widening of the Key West Main Ship Channel (Cut B), at no cost to the City of Key West, to allow larger cruise ships to enter the harbor.

As an avid fisherman I regularly visit Key West and the lower keys to partake in the world-class fishery there.  I am greatly concerned that the continued disturbance of the silt in the main ship channel by cruise ships coming in and out of Key West is leading to continued degradation of the nearby flats and the reef. To widen the main ship channel for even larger ships to come to Key West will only increase the threat. The disturbance of existing sea bottom in the actual widening of the channel would be an environmental disaster from which the surrounding area may not ever recover.

I urge you and the city to not proceed with support for this study. It would appear from the last time this topic was brought up as a poorly worded referendum that a vast majority of local residents do not want the main ship channel widened.  The surrounding fishery and pristine marine environment provide a much greater economic benefit to Key West than any cruise ship traffic can ever bring.  And if the widening were to impact nearby waters for an extended period of time or permanently alter the ecosystem, it is reasonable to expect that the number of visiting fishermen and other water sports participants would drop dramatically.  There is simply no fundamental risk/reward equation that makes sense–except to the commercial interests pushing this proposal.

The interests of residents and visitors who enjoy the Marine Sanctuary and the Key West and Great White Heron refuges and the non-local cruise ship industry may always be at odds. The Key West City Commission should take into account the fact that Key West for all practical purposes sits within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.  Therefore, the commission should take into account the area’s historical uses, along with the original purpose and goals surrounding the establishment of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and National Wildlife Refuges when making these decisions. These are local and national treasures and should be preserved for current and future generations.

As Theodore Roosevelt said: “Surely our people do not understand even yet the rich heritage that is theirs…Our people should see to it that they [sic. Wild places] are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever with their majestic beauty unmarred.”…… Theodore Roosevelt

At its beginnings, the system of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in the US was established so that generations of Americans could benefit from the restorative and cleansing effect of visiting wild places and seeing wild creatures in their natural habitat.  Widening the Key West Ship channel is the greatest immediate threat to these places and to the enjoyment of the many thousands of tourists who visit Key West.

Respectfully Yours,

Your Name

Your address

Here are the email addresses of all the City Officials – just copy and paste e-addresses
Mayor Craig Cates:
Jimmy Weekly:
Mark Rossi:
Billy Wardlow:
Tony Yaniz:
Teri Johnson:
Clayton Lopez:

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