Fishing guides who make their living in the waters of Everglades National Park led a rally of more than 500 people Wednesday protesting the park’s closure due to the federal government shutdown, the Florida Keys News Bureau reported.
Protesters on more than 100 boats, kayaks and paddleboards came together for the rally early Wednesday afternoon. It was held in Cowpens Channel, a part of the Intracoastal Waterway, near the eastern boundary of Everglades National Park near Islamorada.
The park has been shut – on land and on the water – since the shutdown began Oct. 1.
"The park being closed means we can't go fishing, that means we can't make any money, and that means the days of fishing we are losing, we don't get back," said Randy Towe, a longtime Florida Keys fishing guide who organized the protest.
Towe estimated Tuesday that 100 guides are not able to go fishing because of the closure and are losing about $600 a day each.
"We didn’t do anything wrong to cause this, and we’re being penalized on our income," said Towe, of Islamorada.
Fall is a prime time for visitors who come to the Keys seeking redfish, snook, tarpon and trout in the park’s waters, the Florida Keys News Bureau reported.
Towe, who has been a fishing guide in the Keys for 35 years, put it this way: "This is the slowest time of year for the guides for business. It’s a very good time of the year to come fishing.”
State and offshore waters remain open.
The guides don’t blame officials based in Everglades National Park, but they do want Department of Interior officials to take action to provide reasonable access, especially if the budget standoff remains at an impasse, according to the Florida Keys News Bureau.
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