Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
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PWC use draws attention

NORTH KEY LARGO -- Personal watercrafts will be operating in full swing on Card Sound this Labor Day weekend, leaving law enforcement busy and environmentalists worried.

Card Sound Road has long been a popular put-in spot for boaters and fishermen. It is also the home to what law enforcement describes as "Jet Ski Beach."

"It's a honey hole for us," said Bobby Dube, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "We always get violations up there."

Infractions usually involve careless, reckless and underage use.

Growing PWC use there can also be detrimental to the area's preservation, according to a letter from Friends of the Biscayne Bay, an environmental group that supports the protection of local waters.

"These activities are not regulated and certainly can have negative impacts on the seagrass beds and shallow water habitats," Mary Anh Rose wrote in a letter to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary on behalf of the group's board.

The group is also concerned the thrillseekers are violating a 100-foot buffer zone in Crocodile Lake Wildlife Management Area that is in place until October.

The nonprofit group wants the buffer zone to stay in place through the rest of the year. It also wants better signage for boaters and better patrolling of put-in areas on Card Sound Road.

In recent years, the state Legislature has prohibited sweeping restrictions against personal watercraft use.

Attempts to reach Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Director Sean Morton for comment on the Friends of the Biscayne Bay letter were not successful. The sanctuary's spokeswoman, Karrie Carnes, said the situation is being monitored. In an email, Carnes said she has received complaints about boat operators in that area and will work to educate the public with FWC and the Coast Guard.

Don Demaria, a Lower Keys activist who follows the sanctuary closely, has called on the agency to crack down on personal watercraft use.

"If these guys want to go out in the ocean and do this, that's one thing," he said. "But you wouldn't go dirt biking in a national park. This is the same thing."

The Sanctuary Advisory Council next meets Oct. 15 at the Islander Resort in Islamorada.

jgore@keysnews.com

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