Agitated by the Washington budget impasse that has closed the waters of Everglades National Park, fishing guides in the Florida Keys spearheaded a rally Wednesday telling Federal officials to give them back their fishing grounds.
Participants aboard more than 100 boats, kayaks and paddleboards 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 waters for prized gamefish such as mangrove snapper, snook, tarpon, redfish and trout.
“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 500 member protest.
“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.
During the protest, Congressman Joe Garica offered his own support.
“To everyone gathered in peaceful protest against the closing of Everglades National Park today, I stand with you. Like you, I will spread the messages of those affected by the shutdown, and fight for its resolution, until these needless and dangerous games, being played with the livelihoods of the American people, have been put to a stop. It is time to end this shutdown and get the entire government back to work.”