Please respect our environment

By Steve Estes

In less than two weeks, the Florida Keys will be inundated with visitors with just one thought on their collective minds. Those visitors will be seeking our prize crustacean, the spiny lobster.

Estimates are that as many as 30,000 people could travel to the Keys this year for the two-day lobster mini-season July 25 and 26, a number that will provide a much-needed shot in the arm for local businesses that are always strapped after the seasonal visitors and tourists head home when the weather turns warmer in northern climates.

Unlike other events, such as the yearly Fantasy Fest which brings tourist dollars primarily to the Lower Keys, lobster mini-season brings visitors and their corresponding dollars to every area.

Yet no event in the Keys is perhaps more dreaded by the local populace than the annual dash for bugs we call mini-season.

For at least a week, visitors with little knowledge of our waters will be hauling in boats, and people, with the sole purpose of hitting the water and ferreting out some tasty spiny lobster.

We will find them in every “special” hole we have called our own for months, we will find them rocketing through our back yards with throttles wide open, and we will find them enjoying themselves at days’ end in our local establishments.

We welcome these visitors. They provide an economic boon that allows many of our local businesses, businesses that our local year-round residents rely on for goods and services, need to remain around when times are slow.

But we wish for them with some caveats.

We would like to urge our visitors to learn all they can about how to treat this special place we call home, where to back off the throttle, where not to toss an anchor, and where not to hunt lobster.

We would urge them to respect our environment and the living species who call this place home along side humans.

We would urge our visitors not to throw lobster carcasses in our canals. We have enough of a problem with canal debris that we create on our own.

We would urge our visitors to remember that boat ramps are a shared service and their haste to hit the water must not get so blatant that they endanger life and property during this quest.

We would urge our visitors to take a little bit of time and sample what else we have to offer here in this place we call paradise, the cultural attractions, the beautiful sunsets, the museums.

We would urge our visitors to understand that there are many of us who live here. We must work and play, and sometimes mix the two, while they are here to play and hunt bugs.

We would urge our visitors to enjoy themselves, respect our environment and our residential neighborhoods, and conduct themselves with some degree of reverence toward this area—an area unlike any other in the continental United States.

We want our visitors to have fun. We want them to get their limit of tasty bugs. We want them to enjoy, if only briefly, what we sometimes take for granted every day.

But we want them to temper the fun with responsibility. We want our visitors to stop at their limit of bugs and not try and drive up our only road with more than their allotted share of our crustacean friends stuffed in the coolers.

We would urge our visitors not to come her with the intent to pillage our waters, but to share responsibly in the bounty that we have.

We are more than willing to share our paradise with all of you. We just want the same in return.

Welcome.

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