I spent a very interesting 5 days last week in the Florida Keys on a mission for Shifting Baselines. If ever there was the ultimate SB location, that's it. There's 100 years of decline there. In Karen Demaria's book of oral histories of the Keys there are quotes of workers at Fort Jefferson in the 1930's talking about "the good old days" when you could make a decent living off fishing. By the late fifties things were bad enough for a group to come together and create John Pennekamp Underwater State Park. Since then, the ravaging has gone unabated.
I listened to tales from veteran fishermen, dive operators, underwater photographers ... no one was happy with the current state of things. The highlight of the week was an hour long discussion with novelist Carl Hiaason who has lived in Islamorada for 12 years. He pretty much echoed the what he said in a 60 Minutes segment on him a couple months ago -- that the degradation of the Keys continues, which is a shame.
But the worst part of it all is the lack of agreement among scientists on the causes, which has probably hampered the environmental effort as there is so much disagreement over whether its all due to nutrient input, over-fishing, coral disease, coral bleaching ... on and on. Lots of factors, all interacting. Lots of headaches. But a fascinating place, nevertheless. And a place of endless SB experiences as new tourists come in every day and think they are looking at what's natural. Hopefully new efforts at ecosystem based management will help a bit.
Posted by Randy Olson at June 14, 2005 08:36 AM
Florida Keys residents flee the opening of lobster mini-season.