July 5th 2020 – An increasingly popular discussion among Florida Keys and Key West residents, business owners and some visitors is, Should Florida Keys lobster mini season be cancelled?
So far as we know there is no plan to cancel the state mini season for lobstering, although the village of Islamorada did petition the state to close it this past week. Im not sure what it would take to do it but my guess would be monumental as the season is not only a Monroe County thing but a State thing. There is a difference however of bag limit between Monroe County and the rest of the state. 6 per person Monroe County / Biscayne bay and 12 per for the rest of the state. That may open a door to customize the season in Monroe County. We shall see.
Why Are The Locals Against Mini Season?
Allow me to address some of the views here based on my views as a 30 year resident and water related business owner in the Keys who, by the way, makes money from The Florida Keys Mini Season through charters. Maybe by reading this article visitors with an open mind might see the problems that are brought here by so many and maybe bring with them a solution when they visit, understanding that many feel this is their home and non Monroe residents are guests. Keep in mind, this article and the examples in here are all true and a perspective from a locals point of view. I do note that not everyone is like this, but unfortunately the masses are.
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Many Florida Keys locals get irritated by the crowds both on land and on water. It feels like an invasion. I feel that the uppers Keys are the most negatively affected because of the closer proximity to the actual mainland but the problems exist through out the Florida Keys. The reason the lobster crowd seems bigger is because almost all of them are towing a boat. Thats a two for one that requires room on the road, gas pumps and parking. On top of that many are bringing all their toys too with a separate vehicle. Wave runners, the kids with their trucks and toys. Its allot.. Cramming larger numbers of bodies into a VRBO or STR for the few days and filling the infrastructure to the max. Daily life grinds to a halt with the much heavier traffic everywhere not to mention on a two lane road that already sucks. People parking in their yards on the side of US1 and anywhere they can find. Thats just the start.
Boat Ramps / Marinas
Boat ramps that have been limited in numbers already by the environmentalists are jammed up for hours as most of the lobster crowd are new boaters and not as proficient or practiced. This creates a ton of strife and emotional issues right off the bat. Many of our locals rely on these boat ramps to get to work. Those folks don’t work for the week of sportsman season knowing its just better to stay home. (speaking of fishing guides) Yes I said week. Lobsters or not the ramps are jammed up with folks scouting the day before and boating the days after.
Marinas are jammed up with boats buying bags of ice loading or just hanging out but not fuel, not bait. Most visitors are proud of the fact they fuel up before heading to the Keys cause Gas is expensive here. Often times bringing gas cans full of fuel from the mainland. Many put their boats on trailer at night to take advantage of road fuel at gas stations, cause it’s cheaper than renting a slip at the marina or paying for fuel there.
For locals working on the water it can be super challenging to do their job during mini season at all.
I really hate it when locals are negative about any of our visitors. I feel it negatively impacts our tourism which I make my living from. It frankly makes me mad. During lobster mini season I feel differently, I feel that the locals in many cases regarding mini season are right.
There is a certain element of entitlement that comes here during mini season. Locals feel that the visitors come here expecting and demanding us to wait on them hand and foot because they are such a boom to our economy. I know of an owner of two hugely popular restaurants in the Lower Keys that is slammed during mini season. She supports closing it, in fact she is a strong outspoken supporter. That says allot. Thats just one example of many. Why are these folks willing to give up the revenue that the visitors during mini season say we need so much? Makes you wonder
I have seen and felt first hand the rudeness from so so so many of the mini season visitors its no wonder why many “locals” Hate it. I have witnessed fights at gas stations and on the water over rights to nothing.. Seen folks be as rude as they can be to our servers and bar tenders with a hugely elitist attitude. Watched folks leave areas completely trashed with liter and rotting lobster heads. Then to go home and talk crap about how they were treated on posts in forums here on the internet trashing the reputation of the Florida Keys.
Some locals do benefit from the boost in economy from lobster mini season. As my research has told me this is a very small number in compared to the rest of the locals that work and live here doing jobs not related to tourism or lobster visitors. So the impact of the crowd and the attitudes is far greater than one can imagine. I have seen many posts in our Facebook group page saying “the Florida Keys cannot live without lobster mini season” They could not be more wrong. The locals as a whole don’t want it. Even some of them as I outlined in the last paragraph that do benefit from it would be glad to see it go for so many reasons, not just the ones I am outlining here.
The Environmental Impact
Then there is the enormous environmental impact of the Florida Keys lobster mini season. Since 2015 the state of Florida has added over 120,000 new registrations for boats. Over half of that is the 16-25ft range. Currently there are over 550,000 Register boats in the State that are 16-25ft that is the average size vessel that comes to the Keys to go lobstering. That is a lot of new boaters. With inexperienced boaters increasing by those kind of numbers every year the amount of folks coming to the Florida Keys to go lobstering during mini season is also increasing exponentially.
Boating is great! I love being on the water which is why I chose to do what I do. I also enjoy showing others this great natural wonder that is the Florida Keys. Furthermore I enjoy helping others get the most out of their boating keeping them and the environment safe.
I Hate what I see during the Florida Keys Lobster Mini Season. It’s a travesty.
Getting to and from the grounds where lobsters are caught can be a test in navigational awareness, ability to read water and a chart. Apparently many of the mini season visitors have little of this. Judging by the number of folks we see hard aground, racing across our shallow estuaries and flats to keep from hitting and motoring around with engines tilted up mud and grass flying up behind them looking for the channel.
Anchoring in a coral patch area in 4-10 ft of water, diving for lobsters, touching the coral with gloves, standing on coral heads which has proven to kill them. Only to get out of the water ready to leave, anchors stuck in the coral head and then back down with the motor to yank it out, in some cases flipping the heads over to certain death. Instead of getting back in the water and gently removing the anchors. I can take anyone interested to the backcountry and show you a dozen flipped heads and damage that has happened in the last 15 years on a living thing that is over 300 years old.
All of the above is illegal and I can keep going. Its a mess and we see allot of it during mini season all up and down the Florida Keys. We just don’t have the enforcement for the number of careless boaters to be governed.
Many say.. Try to educate. I was a huge subscriber to that theory. I thought instead of regulate, let’s educate. As a professional fishing guide it has taken me a while but I have learned that most folks don’t like to be told how to play. They know everything and will do what they want anyway. So thats out.. Anyone local or otherwise that tries to show someone a different or better way comes off as a “Karen” and gets yelled at and disrespected.. One example of many.. I personally helped some folks one day that were aground. Boat load of 8 on a 26ft twin engine CC. They were about 100ft out of the channel and the tide was dumping. I know they would be there a good while and they were trying to power off the flat with the motors tearing things up worse. I had one of them walk out and grab my anchors line and attach to their boat. I was in my 36 ft triple engine boat and had plenty of power to pull them through the grass and sand to deeper water and save the flat more pain. I did.. Once out and in deeper water I shared with them my local knowledge. They were more interested in good lobster spots. I kept re-iterating Low tide soon, Stay in this channel that way to open water.. Follow me… I was Called an asshole local that didn’t want to share. I idled away as they shot up on plane to go back on the flat they had just tried to destroy.. This is one of many stories.
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is making measures to cut off certain areas for boaters to navigate. None of these are lobstering areas and I feel this is the biggest environmental threat there is to our waters. They have not created any news laws or come up with any ideas on how to prevent the destruction of our resources by mini season participants. I have heard many locals, especially professionals on the water comment on this very fact and consider this a failure in the approach to protecting the Florida Keys natural resource. Fun fact, the visitors often complain about local law enforcement being too heavy.
Regular Lobster Season
Would regular season be impacted by the closure of Mini Season? I am sure there would be some affects but not as many as some think. Lets look at some points here that I think will happen during regular season if mini season were to close
- Visitors would stay longer and not feel so pressed to jam all the lobstering in on two days.
- School starts for many in the first of August. This may decrease the number of participants for regular season.
- People would be way more relaxed
- Lobstering is good all through October so the crowds would be more wide spread and enforcement with fewer boats on the water at a time, easier.
- More of a boom economically for Keys tourist businesses.
- Locals would be happier to have the visitors in a more manageable flow.
Florida Keys lobster Mini season could be a good thing if everyone were more conscious about their footprint but that just does not seem to be the case. The many who are not ruin it for the rest and it all turns bad.. Many of us that gain from mini season economically don’t really think it is a good thing and I think as a group the majority of us would gladly see it go away. Purely due to the many that make it a nightmare. Every year it gets worse and the sentiment is growing accordingly.
We as locals do know there are many who come for mini season that really do care and we appreciate them… Unfortunately that is outweighed HEAVILY by the I don’t give a damn crowd.
Cancelling Mini Season 2020
I think this is a bad idea. Cancelling mini season this close would suck for many.. not only the folks that have reservations and plans to come down but also for those who hold those reservations and are banking on the money. I think it is a decision to be made for next year. Just like closing our doors and crushing our economy in March was a terrible idea.
Capt. Steven Lamp