The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) Commissioner Richard Corbett cited the "pirate-like mentality" of Florida Keys live-aboard boaters before he voted in favor of a new set of rules for vessels moored off the Keys.
He wanted to make sure the test rules will not only be enforced, but be complied with.
"We are going to start out gentle but we are going to keep applying pressure until we get compliance," FWC Major Jack Daugherty said Wednesday during a meeting in Tampa. "The Keys are a diverse place with a lot of diverse people .... We want to get voluntary compliance. The only way to get to compliance is to warn .... Educate, educate and educate."
Corbett called the Keys a "truly different part of the world."
The rules require proof of regular sewage pump-out and the tagging of vessels at risk of sinking or becoming derelict. Vessels would be labeled at risk of sinking at the discretion of law enforcement officers based on certain criteria, such as listing, being aground, beached or taking on water.
The rules also create "no-anchoring buffer zones" adjacent to the mooring fields in the cities of Key West and Marathon, where officials have expressed concern about vessels breaking free and striking boats inside managed mooring fields. The rules will be for non-managed mooring fields off Key West Harbor and Cow Key Channel off Stock Island.
The rules, which were created by Monroe County's Marine Resources Division, do not call for violators' vessels to be removed, but the owners would be warned and eventually face fines if the issues were not addressed. After a first warning, a $50 fine would be levied. The fine would increase to $100 for a second offense, and $250 for a third offense. All subsequent offenses would be $250.
Owners would have 30 days between fines to address issues, said Rich Jones, Monroe County's marine resources division director.
"This is in no way intended to push boaters out," Jones told the FWC board on Wednesday. "We want them to be responsible .... We don't have a silver bullet. What you see are the best ideas that are tolerable to the public."
The rules still have to come before the Monroe County Commission before they are implemented. The County Commission has not set a date to vote on the rules.
The commission has given tentative approval of the rules.
If approved, the rules would be in place until 2014. They will then be reviewed by the FWC and sent to the state legislature, which could vote to make them permanent.