As the federal government’s partial shutdown continues, snook and tarpon anglers who had their sights set on the Everglades National Park now find themselves rescheduling. It is a major blow to the many fishing guides and charter operations in the area, and they are keen on making their voices heard. On Wednesday over 500 people gathered in the Cowpens Channel to protest the shutdown. According to NBC 6, the protesters gathered on a myriad collection of over 100 boats, rafts and kayaks.
“The park being closed means we can’t go fishing, that means we can’t make any money, and that means the days of fishing we are losing, we don’t get back,” said local fishing guide Randy Towe,
Towe organized the protest because he says the charters in the area are losing more than $600 a day in canceled trips and lost customers. Tournaments that had been set to take place in the Everglades vicinity will also be impacted by the shutdown of the national park, including the Redbone At-Large Tournament, which raises money for cystic fibrosis research.
“I’ve lost $10,000 in canceled trips that I’ll never get back,” Charter boat captain Matt Bellinger told The Miami Herald. “I’m already into my war chest to survive.”
According to the Herald, the park is now run by a small staff of only 12 rangers and other essential personnel. It is a staggeringly small workforce for an area comprising more than 800 square miles. Protesters say they do not blame the National Park Service (NPS), whose employees themselves are facing financial difficulties as a result of furloughs. Instead, the guides—and many anglers—want the Department of the Interior to provide reasonable access for the duration of the shutdown.
It may be a request that the state can answer. Interior Secretary Sally Jewel announced recently that she would consider re-opening closed public land if state governments were willing to fund them. Several national parks in Utah have already been slated to re-open for at least 10 days, according to a press release from the Governor’s office.