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In Keys visit, DeSantis adds a day to lobster mini season and $5 million for artificial reefs

FILE: Spiny lobster is a South Florida favorite - and the state's most valuable seafood.RICHARD ELZEY/FLICKR
FILE: Ellie Lamb, left, and Jessica Posey, both of Fort Lauderdale, show off a few of the lobsters they caught, after returning to Crandon Park Marina during the first day of Lobster Mini Season in 2015.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced more investments into Florida’s artificial reefs and a new incentive for Florida residents to partake in lobster mini season.

DeSantis visited Dockside Boot Key Harbor in Marathon Wednesday where he announced that an additional day will be added to the spiny lobster mini season this year – exclusively for Florida residents. The extra day is scheduled for Sunday, July 14. The previously scheduled recreational mini season runs from Wednesday July 24 to Thursday July 25.

“This is just an excellent opportunity for locals here in the Florida Keys to enjoy their time with our resources and have memories with their families and their kids,” said Roger Young, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director.

During the mini season, the daily bag limit is six lobsters per person in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park. The size limit is a measured carapace, which is a lobster's body from its eyes to the start of its tail, of more than 3 inches in the water.

The governor also said he would be approving $5 million in funding for Monroe County’s new Artificial Reef Program.

“This is all to support the establishment of a new framework for installing, overseeing and preserving artificial reef habitats in the Florida Keys,” DeSantis said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses a crowd at Dockside Boot Key Harbor in Marathon on Weds. June 19, 2024.
Courtesy of Governor Ron DeSantis' Office
Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses a crowd at Dockside Boot Key Harbor in Marathon on Weds. June 19, 2024.

The artificial reef program aims to preserve fish populations and other marine resources as natural reef systems continue to collapse, but habitat support structure implementation and long-term sustainability are complicated.

The program was being supported by a $10 million grant from the FWC but with additional money from the state agency, the county initiative will be able to extend the timeframe of their work. Now the program may run through 2029 — instead of 2028.

“We now have more than 4,300 planned public artificial reefs that have been placed in state and federal waters off Florida’s coast and we’ve done $26.5 million through the balance of our administration on artificial reefs,” DeSantis said.

The local program will kick off with its first project likely involving 37 donated concrete poles which may be placed in the Gulfside 10 mile reef, about 16 miles off Key West in federal waters, according to the program’s director Hanna Koch.
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Julia Cooper