It’s always a busy time on the water in the Florida Keys

From derelict vessels to smugglers to lobster poaching, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is always on the job.

Captain Dave Dipre of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been happening on the waterways.

The migrant migrations have subsided a bit.

Captain Dipre said, “Our partners in the Coast Guard and our partners in the Air Marine section of customs and border patrol, they are still working like mad. The ones who make it to land are going to border patrol, so they are still very busy, but fewer are making it to land. I credit our partners at US Coast Guard with that.”

Weather makes a difference as well. When the temperatures fluctuate, the wind kicks up and that makes boat launches more difficult.

Captain Dipre said, “We do see landings, but we are not seeing them like we were in the late part of 2022.”

When migrants make it to border patrol, they are often sent back to where they came from.

Captain Dipre said, “I thank Sheriff Ramsay because he’s the one who really called a great deal of attention to what’s going on down here because his agency, like mine, we’re working migrants all the time so are we doing resource protection? Well, not as well. So he played a huge role in that and thanks to him we got this assistance down here and thanks to the Senators and Congressmen and the governor, we got the help we need and it’s going very well.”

The additional resources the area has seen will likely be around until August.

Captain Dipre said, “Right now the city of Marathon has been fabulous to us. I said I need to be able to set up an encampment. Is it okay if we use the city park? The city has been fantastic, along with all the council members. Nobody has given us a hard time. Whatever we needed, they have provided. We’re very, very grateful to the city of Marathon.”

There will be more Fish and Wildlife officers on the water and orange stickers will be put on all the chugs.

Captain Dipre explained, “We must follow Florida statute. Everybody says well that’s just a piece of junk, why don’t you get it out of there? My piece of junk and your piece of junk might be different. It’s not my job to judge. I see what’s out there. We know it’s abandoned property. We don’t know who it belongs to, so we put a sticker on it and we give those individuals time because the law says we must give them time.”

The contractors will eventually come around and get them out – and it’s happening as fast as the process can.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission works to be fiscally responsible for taxpayer dollars.

Captain Dipre said, “I met with somebody last night who said to me can we still take them out if they’re on our property? Absolutely you can, but I don’t know a means of reimbursement. That was another question. How can I get reimbursed for that? I have no idea. If there is a means of reimbursement, I am not aware of it. So as a private property owner, you will be spending your own money if you want it out of there any sooner, but the state is coming along. We’re getting things cleaned up as quickly as we can.”

That’s likely why it will take until August. There were about 200 chugs to begin with. The state has taken care of around 50 of those.

“And that doesn’t include any derelict vessels yet from the storm,” Captain Dipre noted. “That was another issue that we’re still dealing with is cleaning up derelict vessel from the storm.”

Additionally, the derelict vessels continue to show up.

Enforcement of resource violations is also on the to-do list for FWC.

Captain Dipre said, “With this team down here, the local officers who know the area, who know the community, who have ties with the community are getting the intel.”

An investigator was out the other day for a case with a whole bunch of lobsters being poached.

Captain Dipre said, “Our officers are walking the bridges, they’re out on the water and stopping boats just to do resource checks and that mission has to continue. You can’t abandon one just to take up the other.”

There are also people who come down in boats, loaded with extra fuel and supplies with the intent of going over to pick up migrants.

Captain Dipre said, “The state does have authority to help prevent smuggling. If we find people on boats with extra fuel containers, those fuel containers must be properly marked. We work closely with border patrol. If we find individuals on those boats, you can be guaranteed if you have any prior history with border patrol, we will be contacting them and they will be contacting you and letting you know that we’re aware of what actions are happening.”

Anyone bringing migrants in or knowingly having illegal immigrants on their boats, it is a felony.

For any questions on FWC, call 888-404-3922 or click here: