A snorkeler shows his lobster catch during the lobster mini-season last year. IAN WILSON/Keys Weekly

A Florida Keys municipality is calling on the governor to cancel the two-day spiny lobster mini-season in Monroe County as coronavirus cases increase in South Florida, the state and other regions throughout the country. Not all appear to be on board with the cancellation, however.

Islamorada Vice Mayor Ken Davis brought forth discussion during a July 1 special meeting of council as he expressed concern over the upcoming mini-season in a pandemic. He urged the village to ask Gov. Ron DeSantis to forgo mini-season this year. Council agreed.

Before the meeting, Davis said he spoke with Key West Mayor Teri Johnston regarding concerns surrounding the season. Davis said Johnston reached out to commissioners. He said a majority verbally agreed that a request should be made to the governor, as well as the board of county commissioners, to cancel the mini-season. 

“When you talk about debacles of a pandemic, this would be the worst possible ever bringing people from throughout the U.S.,” he said.

Mini-season is scheduled to kick off at 12:01 a.m. on July 29 and end at midnight on July 30. The bag limit in Monroe County is six per day. For the rest of the state, it’s 12. Possession limits are enforced on and off the water by Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation officers. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and the Coast Guard also assist during the season.

Councilman Chris Sante said the season that was started to promote tourist traffic has become a “rape, plunder and pillage” during the lobster mini-season. He, too, supported a pause to the mini-season this year.

“We’re overwhelmed with people and it’s just getting worse,” he said. “Anything we can do to slow it down I’m fine with.”

County Mayor Heather Carruthers said during a July 8 board of county commissioners meeting that there was no strong consensus among the municipalities on whether to cancel mini-season. She said there’s split opinions among the mayors and area, and some believed it would only increase intensity on water and land.

“The reasons for that I think primarily are that, one, especially in the Upper Keys, they feel that mini-season is not quite as busy or as destructive as it has been in the past,” she said. “Two, we saw that the Fourth of July was much calmer than we anticipated, and three, that postponing or eliminating mini-season simply postpones everything until Aug. 6, so you have one day when all commercial and recreation fishing people are on the water. Four, everybody’s concerned about the economy.”

The health department in Monroe County reported 18 new cases of coronavirus on July 9. In the past week alone, more than 150 new cases have been reported to the Florida Health Department in Monroe County. Deaths in the county rose to six on July 8, while hospitalizations in the county were at nine, per the health department’s latest report.

Cases are also on the rise in Miami-Dade where new cases rose by almost 3,000 according to the health department’s July 8 report. Daily spikes and increases in hospitalizations led Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to sign an emergency order to close dine-in services at restaurants effective July 8.

Islamorada Mayor Mike Forster expressed his support for a lobster mini-season cancellation this year through letters and a possible resolution. He wasn’t optimistic, however, that it would yield any results at the state level.

“I can’t speak for the governor because he’s done some things that have caught me from left field. I think he’s trying to release some pressure off the Dade and Broward areas,” he said. “They (Miami-Dade) haven’t gotten past stage half yet. They’re not at full one yet. They (the state) are trying to release pressure, the valve and have them go elsewhere. It affects everybody else because they have the most cases of anybody.”

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