The Navy on Friday cracked down on boats anchored in the restricted waters off Fleming Key near Key West, handing out 37 federal citations.
A number of the vessels were being operated as vacation rentals, said Trice Denny, spokeswoman for Naval Air Station Key West.
The enforcement operation was conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Key West Police Department and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
The local Naval Air Station’s port operations and search and rescue departments provided support in the effort to clear vessels out of potentially dangerous areas near Fleming Key bunkers that store explosive materials.
“We’ve continually warned boaters about restricted areas around [the Naval Air Station], and we’ve had some success in compliance without issuing tickets, but some boaters have chosen to stay anchored where they shouldn’t be,” said Capt. Bobby Baker, the station’s commanding officer.
The ticketed boat owners face $250 fines, and that’s just for the first violation, Baker said.
Restricted areas around the Naval Air Station under the Code of Federal Regulations date back to at least 1989 and have been placed on nautical/GPS charts since then.
“The reason for the restrictions are simply for the safety of the public and protection of our missions,” said Baker. “Today we focused on Fleming Key, but the public should be aware that we have restricted areas around much of the base and encourage boaters to make sure they’re aware of their surroundings.”