81ºF

Monroe County to remove 32 derelict boats from Marquesas Keys

$61,200 project begins Sunday, continues through April 1

These are among the derelict boats that will be removed in the Marquesas Keys.
These are among the derelict boats that will be removed in the Marquesas Keys. (FWC)

KEY WEST, Fla. – Monroe County is working with state and federal officials to remove more than 30 abandoned and derelict boats in the Marquesas Keys.

The $61,200 project, which is slated to begin Sunday and continue through April 1, is being spearheaded by the Monroe County Marine Resources Office. It is paid for by Monroe County Boating Improvement Funds, which are generated from boating registration fees.

"Monroe County is pleased the removal work is about to start," said Rich Jones, senior administrator of the Marine Resources Office. "This project has required extensive planning and coordination with multiple state and federal agencies and is logistically complicated due to the remote location and specialized boats and equipment necessary to perform the job."

Daniel Clark, a manager for the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex, said the Marquesas Keys provide some of the last remaining habitat in the lower Keys for several threatened and endangered species, including the piping plover, green and hawksbill sea turtles and the Miami blue butterfly.

"Removal of these vessels and marine debris is critical for the continued conservation of these rare animals and their habitats because, if left as is, they would likely continue to impact this important habitat," Clark said. "Removal of these vessels is important to protect the special place that is the Key West National Wildlife Refuge. We are pleased to be a part of this multi-agency effort and thank the county, state and other federal partners as we work together to ensure these precious ecosystems remain in good condition for future generations."

The map shows the locations of the derelict boats, which are strewn along six islands of the Marquesas Keys.
The map shows the locations of the derelict boats, which are strewn along six islands of the Marquesas Keys.

The Marquesas Keys are a group of islands about 17 miles west of Key West. They have been a regular landing spot for Cuban migrants who leave their boats behind.

Monroe County and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary hired Coffin Marine Services to remove the 32 derelict vessels, which range in size from 18 to 25 feet and are spread across six islands. Some of the boats are submerged near the shoreline, while others are strewn along the beaches and mangroves.

Coffin Marine Services will use a 60-foot barge with a boom crane and other equipment to remove the boats in time for bird-nesting season.

Monroe County removes about 80 derelict vessels each year from Sanctuary waters, but this will be the county's first removal project in the Marquesas Keys.


About the Author: