Although still one of the world’s top destinations for flats fishing, the habitats and fisheries of the Keys are not being cared for as they should. Water flowing from the Florida Everglades, for example, is highly altered. Historically, as water from Lake Okeechobee flowed south into Florida Bay it was cleaned by the Everglades. Today, construction of dams and channels has limited freshwater flow across the Everglades, and large areas of the Everglades have been drained for agricultural use. This means that freshwater flow from the Everglades is greatly altered from its natural path, and the limited water that reaches Florida Bay now contains a slew of nutrients and contaminants, killing seagrass and filling the once-clear waters with harmful algae.
These changes, in turn, degrade the habitats of the Florida Keys, which then affect the fisheries. Habitat degradation threatens fisheries around the world, but the importance of the Keys to the world of flats fishing makes this an especially important fight to take on.
Bonefish, tarpon and permit support some of the world’s most exciting and challenging coastal and shallow-water recreational fisheries. Anglers’ passion for catching these fish with fly rods and light tackle supports global travel and professional guides, as well as the boat-building and tackle industries, which generate well-paying jobs and vital local and regional tourism revenues. The flats fishery is a central part of the Florida Keys culture. Each of these species, however, face challenges as the habitats they rely upon in and around the Florida Keys degrade.