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Coast Guard busts anglers fishing in off-limits sanctuary area

Dead snapper, chub and other reef fish line the deck of a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat after anglers were caught fishing in the off-limits Carysfort Sanctuary Preservation Area.
Dead snapper, chub and other reef fish line the deck of a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat after anglers were caught fishing in the off-limits Carysfort Sanctuary Preservation Area.

A patrol from U.S. Coast Guard Station Islamorada Sunday busted anglers with at least 31 fish they caught within one of several federally-designated zones off-limits to fishing along the Florida Keys’ reef.

The boat was stopped within the Carysfort Sanctuary Preservation Area off Key Largo, according to a statement issued on Station Islamorada’s Facebook page. It’s not clear how many people were on the boat. The Coast Guard crew “issued several violations” and turned the case over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

A photo taken by the Coast Guard crew shows a variety of dead reef fish caught by the anglers. Officers with the FWC could not be immediately reached regarding the case.

Sanctuary Preservation Areas are within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and were established to protect the shallow areas of the reef.

“SPAs encompass discrete, biologically important areas that help sustain critical marine species and habitats,” reads a statement on Station Islamorada’s Facebook page.

Chief among the rules within the so-called SPAs are no fishing or anchoring. Diving is permitted, but boaters must use a mooring line tied to a white buoy located within the protected area. Divers are not allowed to touch anything they see underwater, including the coral — dead or living. Yellow buoys let people know they are in a SPA.

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