Vote on expanded no-take areas positioned

“You’re strangling us, slowly but surely strangling us,” said Bill Harbaugh, an Upper Keys charter captain.

“This is a declaration of war against fishermen … a vast overreach,” said Upper Keys commercial fisherman Carlos Jimenez.

Taking the brunt of the collective anger from more than 100 opponents were volunteer members of the Ecosystem Protection working group, preparing a set of revised zoning maps to submit to the full Sanctuary Advisory Council.

After hours of public comment, the working group abandoned plans to vote Monday on recommendations for a network of new ecological reserves and preservation areas ranging from the Dry Tortugas to Carysfort Reef off North Key Largo.

“Everybody just now is getting wind of this,” said Ernie Piton, president of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association and a member of the working group. “There’s no way we’re getting through this today. It’s not possible.”

“The whole thing’s a meltdown,” said Joe Weatherby, a diving representative on the working group.

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