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Michael Leverone  

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Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary; Fish and marine invertabrate collecting for aquarium trade  

Interview 32:25 - 35:04 Play 32:25 - More
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Glen Abban  

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Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary; Charter boat fishing  

Interview 36:35 - 41:41 Play 36:35 - More
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Craig Giovanni  

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Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary; Key West Charter Boatmen's Association  

Interview 42:17 - 44:50 Play 42:17 - More
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Jimmy Bailey  

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Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary; Charter boat fishing  

Interview 45:15 - 53:54 Play 45:15 - More
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Howard Singer  

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Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary; Key West Association of Dive Operators  

NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
22 Sep 1997

    Geography
  • United States
    Florida
    Monroe County
    Locality
  • Key West
    Latitude/Longitude
  • 24.55917   -81.78403
    Channels
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
    Recorders
    Microphones
    Accessories
    Equipment Note
  • Stereo=1; Decoded MS stereo

NPR/NGS RADIO EXPEDITIONS
FLORIDA KEYS NMS
DAT # 1

ML =Michael Leverone
G = Glen Abban
CG = Craig Giovanni
JB = Jimmy Bailey
HS = Howard Singer
AC = Alex Chadwick

0:15 sound gets better

0:42 ML "My name is Michael Leverone. I'm a resident of Key West. I've been here since '79, I'm in the marine life collection business i collect sea life basically tropical fish I hold them and then I export them throughout the united states and I have one customer in europe, same customers, same area, same fish week in week out year after year. I pretty much deal with the same people. you hear a lot ofneg some people they don't run the business properly so they're always looking for new customers I can't handle the ones that I have"

1:19 ac "and how does the sanctuary affect your work here?"

1:24 ML "well it affects me because it keeps me from an area that I can go to and rough for mate weather if you have ten foot waves breaking on the reef I can get on the lee side of that and basically spend a day invertebrates smell class ...that way I make a days pay its usually a short day I v rarely collect fish from that area but now its been taken from me I don't know what I'm going to do with my time... "

2:21 ML "its disappointing i'm in favor of parks but your selectively keeping a miniscule type of person out of the park which would be a marine life collector but then you're letting lots and lots of tourists go in ... but I find the reef literally littered with copper coins which are toxic, you name it I've found them (dog bark)... mask parts, motor parts.. .its all tourist related, I've got a collection of them in my garage its unbelievable (wind)"

3:15 ac "its common mistakes that people make"

3:19 ML "And probably the most serious one that's never been addressed is that we have scuba tours that go to the live reef and these people go under the reefs and they look at the fish and they exhale and that water goes up and it gets trapped under the reef, it creates dead spots but worse of all it blows out all the larvae all the tiny fish all the microscopic things you really can't identify yet and they are live fish and they're blown out and they never get back they've lost the safety of that little area they're in they're an infant and they've gotta eat and be cared for at all times but ifthey get moved too far and their area gets bigger as the fish gets bigger but
only a tiny fraction of those fish ever make it to size and then even a smaller fraction
makes it to a breeding size but uh that's where the damage is done a lot of touching
literally hundreds and hundreds of people will go to a spot that I would only frequent once or twice a week. So if you figure that out I'm really doing a minute amount of interference with reef an exchange with the reef, so its really small"

4:23 ac "tell me this is the reef system in trouble the water quality system in trouble here"

"I think it is, but its not our doing our current heads north goes along the reef where's it coming from LA the gulf a lot of it, our weather has changed the heat has done as much damage as anything coral not as healthy I've got places where i've caught thousands ten thousands of angels? In the last couple of years I've watched that number go down urchins aren't doing their job keeping the algae clean."

4:54 ac "if the system is in trouble isn't it a good idea to do something what are you going to do?"

4:58 ML "what are you going to do? I think you need to do some research but you know where's the dirty water coming out of key west other than you know the sewage effluent its going out but where's the dirty water south of here? .. I think a lot of it has to do with the heat and the sewage ... "

5:44 ac "you describe yourself as an environmentalist, but you're an environmentalist that's not in favor of the sanctuary at all?"

5:53 ML "if your going to have a sanctuary it needs to be done correctly. I think if it had been done correctly it never would have passed,
so its like get your foot in the door and then you expand on it that's the way its always been. I like the no-swim zone that's a good reef that's a good idea but you've taken so much of of the reef and given it to a select few people who can use it. back to the money people that have these charters the boat the motor the hotel people all inclusive packages that local people cannot compete with. and I can't compete because of imports some of the people that sat on the board who voted for like size limits of fish they're importing from Haiti that's the only thing that I had to compete! I pay a guy a dollar a fish for an item that you can import for a dollar so my only recourse is to put out a better product for the same amount of money or a little more money it costs me more but I can compete because I have a better fish or a better critter so really taking care of the reef is important to me I need it i don't go somewhere else this is it"

6:55 ac "so what do you do taking care of the reef is so important to you what are you going to do? If there was no sanctuary. these sanctuary people say that if you don't put in some kind of regulation ... its just going to get trampled ... "

7:25 ML "well make the regulation even, evenly proportioned I mean...no one's ever asked me anything ...who's asked me anything you've got people from Tallahassee
with a degree that have never done any kind of work or treasure salving, ... "

7:50 ML "I think a study needs to be done on a lot of things urine in the water all these people urinating on the reefs, it goes right up the reef there was a study a girl did I understand its very toxic to the reef and it doesn't dissipate in the way that you would think it would. So there's a lot of different things that you can do I think the parks imp. I think its a start but I think people need to have even access to it limit the tourists but that's never going to happen the local people can't use it but the tourists can ...."

8:40 ac "you know its the same way in the nat parks though and I think the idea of these snac is that they are sort of ocean parks we can't go and take things out of the parks either"

8:48 ML "true but the parks have gone steadily downhill I guess you can always counter they'd be in worse shape if we didn't have a park but its .. .I'm just a small percentage of a person that does what I do so my outcry is just not heard nobody cares, I mean I just came back from cozumel I came back from grand caymen in Jamaica I dive em all I like to go there once a year its fun but I'm seeing the same thing there as I am here it tourists its number of people volumes are frequenting the same places over and over I don't see and number on limit that's what the study should be done how many people can the reef tolerate doing what they are doing day in and day out as many as four times a day to the same spot.40 to 50 to 80 people in the same spot day after day I rotate it out I don't go back for weeks the volume of people is just phenomenal, you see what I'm saying? The volume of people is just phenomenal and all the air under the reef the urine the silver the copper coins the standing...people get scared that they're going to touch the reef...but I'm saying everywhere there's tourists I go back to John penny (?) camp but god the park has really gone down, everybody says its water quality its a lot of things its a very complex big picture its like the conspiracy that I was talking about (dog barking) people say get out of here you don't know what you're talking about .. .its so big you can't see it"
Dog barking

10:31 ac "I've never been a believer in conspiracies? But every once in a while I've been proven wrong in some things ... (laughs)"

10:36 ML "well maybe its not intentional . . .its just happening maybe its just called "that's business"

10:55 ML "so I have to adjust or I go under so the parks hurt me I can't use them, i mean make some concessions I'll touch no fish but let me take inverts say crabs and starfish, you know you can turn over a rock you take a select few items put the rock back or lift them up or work around them, i shouldn't say ... "

11:13 ac "you're a careful man you know every area, ... "

...i know ev. rock every fish ...

11:28 ac but is everyone, if its okay legal to do this then its legal for me to do this ...

talks about his job, how much he makes, the investment, expenses ... talks about

taking a tour boat out ...

12:33 talks about his inability to get into touring business, licenses--space in marina bought by people who have money

14:20 ac "where do you go and collect fish now--"

14:24 ML "weather related i go all around key west...--i'm going further further west which makes them more expensive"

--ac but that's in sanctuary waters you're collecting in sanctuary waters

14:33 ML "i don't know what its deemed, sanctuary, park. .. some you can work in like the...they just haven't put the foot down yet that's coming no more large boats no more commercial boats i'm sure that's coming--"

15:00 ac "well what i'm thinking about think about when yellowstone was est ...when yellowstone was est it was legal to hunt there--and people would complain of the wildlife there because at night it made so much noise there you couldn't sleep... "

15:30 ML "what about the people who live there? ... "

16:21 ac "but is there the argument that there is a larger good that's served here--"

talks about the fact that he what he's worked for nothing all these years, no retirement nothing to give his children ... etc..

17:32 ML "and parks bring money, don't tell me they don't... "

17:40 ML "ten years ago when i watched them do this he's an ex-tropical fish collector-¬sound getting faint, ... "
dog barking, off-topic talking about catching ... effects on his work. ..

18:11 I'm an environmentalist-there's no one who wants to protect the
environment more than me, b/c that's where I make my money ...

21:30 ML "i don't know what i'm going to do this winter, i don't know how i'm going to fill in that time."

22: 13 ac "let me ask you this ... you have all the customers that you can handle now and that must be because ...imagine because you're good at what you do ... "

22:40 ac "why can't you ask people to pay the cost of sanctuary ... prices up"

22:52 ML "you're going to go to a third world country and buy it for a quarter rather than buying it from me ... big money is going to buy the cheap fish ... haiti, dominican republic, the philippines they exploit the people and there was a big stink about the poisons they put in the water. .. "

@25:00 birds in background.

27:13 ML "so many changes and regulations"

27:28 ML "one thing we have in our favor a marine patrol that knows the business"

@28:20 dog barking @28:35... dog

29:02 ms ambi., wind, birds ...

29:37 ms ambi, birds stepping on grass, wind to 32:01 motor passing 32:22 faint motor in background

32:27 g "I'm capt. Glen (Abban?) ... " and are you a charter boat fisherman? "yes sir i am for the last 23 yrs." we're doing stories (boat passing) about the marine sanctuary.

32:42 g "well this one here has got basically all ofus pissed off i mean we're all conservationists the only reason we go to the reef is to satisfY clients on slow days you go ahead and catch a bunch ofbarricudas and release them. we do no damage to the reefs we don't anchor we do ... got no-fish zones now have of our reefs that we go to on half a days are offlimits to us and yet we got two reefs we can ... then you got dive boats out there anchoring there, tell me that that doesn't hurt the reef"

33:51 g there is no reason for it, i think the divers do a lot more damage than we do...i mean all we do is basically ... over and we release 99.9% ofwhat we catch (sneezing in background)

do you think that the water is in trouble here and that something needs to be done?

34:08 g i don't think there's any change at all (background talking)

34:30 g ninety-nine germans pissing off the side of the boat ... (uh-oh)

35:32 ambi. motors (cars passing by, background talking, wind ...

36:57 cg My name's craig giovanni (background machinery noises) saw in background

(people talking in background throughout int.)

37:14 ac so what does the charter boat assoc. view on the sanctuary ...

37:40 cg i think you'll find that most of the guys think that the basic concept behind the sanctuary we're not against. we're not against conservation, we're not against trying to save the reef we just don't feel its been implemented fairly most of us feel that its been a bonanza for the diving industry the snorkeling industry ... they don't allow us to go into those areas to fish on a half a day like we used to need to...we've been shut out of there but we don't feel like we've done any of the damage. we're not bottom fishing (motor in background) we're not throwing anchors and yet we're locked out ofthose areas and they've made it a bonanza for...the people we believe are doing the most harm to the reef as far as human harm goes there the people that are putting 60-70 4,7,8 times a day with diff camerans ... throwing all these people in the water with suntan lotion on and urinating in the water with standing, grabbing the coral i'm sure they try to educate the people but we see it all the time ... and basically the people who are doing the damage ...

38:53 cg but for the people like us and the commercial industry who survive ... so i think you'll find the basic concept of the reef, i don't think you'll find any ofus who are against trying to save the reef. ..we just feel it was another political type deal where money talks and the people with the power got what they wanted and we got the banana!

39:40 ac why close part of the reef to you? ..

i guess they just want nothing out ... but the basic damage we have always felt have been coming from the divers and snorkeling industry and we're not really against them we know they need to make a living too the area is only so big ...
People in background talking ....

cg when you've got 30-40 people on a boat at a time how can one or two people control them?

40:59 cg if they really wanted to see who was doing the damage to the reef, you make some reefs where there is no diving at all, allow fishing, other reefs where you allow diving snorkeling, the glass bottom boats we'll see which reef comes

back quicker.

Car passing ...
(motors passing)

42:17 jb Jimmy Bailey hooked up charters key west fl...we prob do a dozen dive trips in sept that's our slow time for charter business ... ( background talking throughout) snorkeling

43:03 jb fishing is always good in the keys

43:24 jb I'm all for the sanctuary because there are other places that seafood is abundant that is in deeper water...

44:02 ac see the water quality changed?
no.

44:28 jb going through cycle ...

45:15 hs well my name is howard singer and I'm the president of the Key west association of dive operators in key west florida and I'm also the general manager with subtropic dive center

(motors in background)

---ac and what is your take on the sanctuary.

45:30 hs i think its a positive thing for the whole environment well anyone involved with it anyone who comes down ... i'm all for preservation and protecting our natural resources and if we keep taking and nothing is put back in or preserved, there's not going to be anything down the road ...

45:57 hs some of these charter boat capt that you sent us up to talk to said that they think its the snorkelers who are a danger to conservation, they are the ones that are abusing the reef unintentionally ...the effect is you bring so many people down you put them on the reef in these sites and things happen ...

46:26 hs uh yeah snorkelers do come down and there is some damage from them ... its v minor and if you find the charter boats not the fishing charter boats but the snorkeling charter boats they are very adamant about the fact that to make sure in the briefings that nobody touches the reef, ifyou do touch the reef you're out of the water and that's the end of your experience in the water ... uh you do have a lot of uneducated people who come down ... i think the impact from fishing or diving and snorkeling is minimal

.... the impact of the divers is minimal, fishing the same thing if they were all fishing in the exact same area sure it would be devastating in that area ...

48:28 ac we noticed in going around the country that there seems to be more resistance to the idea about the sanctuary here than anywhere else

i think this has more not to do with the fact that things are being preserved but the govt control. there was alot of times that we heard that the manager of the sanctuary., billy causey,... (rumors ... )

49: 13 hs there was misinformation given out all over the place, people on both sides would say things to get their points across

49:25 hs its a v diff thing to come in and all of a sudden peopl have been doing the same thing for years and say now you can't do those things and i think that was a big issue that you're taking away things from people by doing this at the same time as protecting things that they like and cherish ...

49:44 ac that's a question ... wherever you go private rights vs public rights

talking about water quality ... monroe county, key west ...

50:58 ac how many people here are involved with dive business ...

51:15 hs in the assoc. we have ...

51:53 ac how much does it matter that the sanctuary is saying to some people that you just can't operate, ..w/o following some rules that we're establishing.

52:05 hs It 's affected us in some ways, we're actually on a mooring program right now with the sanctuary.--the dive assoc. because one of the reg. that came in is if you can see the bottom in less than forty feet of water its live coral than you can't anchor on it where there's some dive sites that we go to that we use a type of anchor, its called a coral hook it sounds destructive but its not what it does is it will go down and hook and if it hits a piece of? coral it stops and most people don't realize that they'll go in with a danforth which is a plow, put is down in the same area its literally going to plow through fifteen, twenty feet of coral destroying it, we want to get away from that totally we want to get to a system where there's a mooring where its a subsurface mooring .... so there's no destruction from the dive industry in that way ...

52:57 hs as far as the impact, we do an awful lot of advertising to bring people down to key west, (motor, boat? in background) ...a person who comes in just for diving and snorkeling is going to do many many things.

53:34 hs 70% of the people who come to the keys snorkel or dive, ... 53:46 that's a lot of people in the water so yeah i guess it has a big impact on the economy down here.

ambi.

54:43 ambi (ms) for dive guy, with lots of traffic, someone yelling in background, dogs @57:30

58:08 END OF DAT

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