MARATHON – Over the summer, the Monroe County Office of Marine Resources has removed 16 derelict vessels – including a 50-foot cabin cruiser and a 32-foot steel sailboat – from public waters of the Florida Keys using a $99,924 grant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“We are thankful for the FWC grant, which made it possible for Monroe County to remove these abandoned boats,” said Rich Jones, Monroe County’s Marine Resources Administrator. “This effort helps to improve recreational boating access, eliminates navigation hazards and assists with the recovery of sensitive marine habitats.”
The grant from FWC’s Florida Boating Improvement Program is a significant addition to the approximately $190,000 that Monroe County’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program spends each year to remove an average of 60 derelict vessels.
The $190,000 is funded from the Monroe County’s Boating Improvement Fund, which is generated from recreational vessel registration fees. These fees also fund other important boating and waterways projects, including channel marker installation and repairs, the vessel pumpout program and boat ramp repairs.
Of the 16 vessels removed during this latest derelict vessel project, the most expensive was a grounded 50-foot cabin cruiser that partially blocked the channel entrance to Boot Key. It cost $24,248.
The removal list also included a 20-foot migrant vessel aground in the swimming area of Bahia Honda State Park, a 40-foot houseboat sunken near the navigational channel of Fleming Key Bridge and a 43-foot motor yacht that was unlit and sunken in a heavily trafficked boating area of Boca Chica Channel.
The Monroe County Office of Marine Resources directed the removal of the boats through a competitive program using prequalified contractors. Most of the derelict vessel removals are performed within a week of receiving legal authorization. Enforcement agencies must first mark the derelict vessels and try to track down the last known owners or other responsible parties to inform them of their legal responsibilities to take care of their vessels. It is a misdemeanor to abandon a boat. Even after a boat is removed by the County, efforts continue to get any known owners or other responsible parties to pay the costs.
To report a derelict vessel, please contact the FWC Division of Law Enforcement at (888) 404-FWCC.