Dear Editor: The Florida Keys and Key West have two "favorite sons," Jimmy Buffet and Mel Fisher. Insult either one and you will not find much public support. Yet, that is exactly what the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) did right out of the starting gate 26 years ago when they attacked Mel Fisher.
Later, a nonbinding referendum vote calling for the dissolution of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) passed by more than 50 percent of the voters. Since the FKNMS depends so much on community involvement and public support, it is no small wonder that not much has ever been accomplished when the well of public opinion was poisoned from the very beginning.
When I asked about restricting jet skis, I was told there is a legislator in Jacksonville who always blocks any attempt. Water quality issues -- the problems emanate beyond our boundaries. Coral die-offs -- reefs are dying all over the world. Protection of spawning aggregations -- the Sanctuary does not do fisheries management. If the FKNMS can do nothing about these issues, what is the point of having a sanctuary?
The FKNMS seems more concerned about doing feel-good projects and not causing waves than actually solving any meaningful problems. The result is clear -- a dead reef, degraded water quality, fewer and smaller fish and a scene that more resembles an amusement park than a National Marine Sanctuary.
Finally, after many years of ineffective management, we had a sanctuary manager that showed some backbone and NOAA launches an internal investigation based on complaints of a hostile work environment -- then transfers the manager to Charleston. News Flash, disgruntled federal employees: If you want to really experience a hostile work environment, try being self-employed in the private sector. No benefits, no "comp time," no paid vacations, no sick leave, no health insurance, etc. -- just work and taxes!
Sean Morton probably represented the last chance for the FKNMS . Sean understood what needed to be done. He did make waves, and NOAA likes calm seas. The acronym NOAA should stand for is No Organization At All, since they really don't know what they want.
Don DeMaria, commercial fisherman, Summerland Key