Keys Fishing Guides Protest Government Shutdown of Florida Bay

Yesterday about 500 people aboard more than 100 boats, kayaks, and paddleboards assembled near the eastern entry of Florida's Everglades National Park to demonstrate their frustration with the Federal Government's closure of the park's fishing grounds.

Regional guides whose businesses are being hurt spearheaded the rally. A press release says that while they find no fault with the park's officials, they insist the Department of the Interior do something to provide reasonable access while federal legislators attempt to reach a budget solution.

The state's offshore fishing options remain open, however the park's land and water areas, home to prized gamefish like snook, tarpon, redfish, and sea trout have remained off-limits since October 1, affecting the bottom line of guides and local economies that depend on the resource for income.

"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. "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 and for the different species of fish.

"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.