Mike Benitez, a pioneering marlin angler and legend in the sport fishing community, recently passed away. Ricardo LeFranc, a member of Mike’s home port of Club Nautico de San Juan, penned the following …
Visit the Conch-servation Village at the Blazing Mako
By Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost Travel Journalist
Inshore and offshore fishing, art, rum, beer, a Paddleboard Poker Run and a huge bonfire beach party are all great reasons to attend the Blazing Mako Tournament and Festival June 17-19 at the Islander, a Guy Harvey Outpost in Islamorada. But festival goers also will be able to visit with members of local conservation groups at the Conch-servation Village on the beach, learn more about what they do and maybe even get involved.
Here are some of the organizations representing at the Conch-servation Village:
MARRVELOUS PET RESCUES & ADOPTIONS
This mostly-volunteer, non-profit group founded in 2007 in Key Largo provides care, treatment and adoption services for abandoned and stray animals. MarrVelous Pet Rescues & Adoptions is not a shelter; it operates a network of foster homes to care for pets pending permanent adoption. The organization holds regular pet-networking events.
FLORIDA KEYS WILD BIRD REHABILITATION CENTER
This Tavernier-based non-profit is dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing native and migratory wild birds. It operates a bird emergency hotline, educates the public about birds and organizes an annual winter bird count called Project FeederWatch.
EVERGLADES CONSERVATION & CLEANUP COALITION
This all-volunteer group led by Chris Nicolaus of Fort Lauderdale holds regular clean-up events throughout South Florida’s Everglades region. To date, Nicolaus and his helpers have removed more than 25,000 pounds of trash from local wild lands. Nicolaus, a self-taught artist, turns the spent shell casings he recovers into decorative wall hangings on sale at the Blazing Mako. Any profits are put back into the clean-up coalition.
FISH TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Kids suffering from cancer and other life-threatening diseases go on free fishing trips and take marine art classes, courtesy of Fish to Make a Difference. So far this year, more than 300 youngsters have gone fishing, with a goal of 1,000 by year’s end. Captain Bouncer Smith and his mate Captain Abie Raymond have hosted numerous outings for the group on Bouncer’s Dusky 33.
REEF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION FOUNDATION (REEF)
This Key Largo-based non-profit has led the charge locally, nationally and internationally to control the spread of invasive lionfish outside their native Indo-Pacific waters. REEF holds regular lionfish der
bies, conducts lionfish removal classes, teaches divers and snorkelers how to identify and count fish, and contributes data to colleges and universities and fisheries managers.
THE TURTLE HOSPITAL
Founded in 1986, this small Marathon-based non-profit rescues and rehabilitates endangered sea turtles, educates the public about the animals, conducts research in conjunction with university scientists, and opens its doors for regular guided tours.
More than 1,500 sea turtles have been treated and released at the Turtle Hospital in the past 30 years.
BAY & REEF CO. OF THE FLORIDA KEYS
More than a boat charter operation, Bay & Reef Co. –operated by a husband-and-wife team–conducts eco-tours and boater education programs in addition to snorkeling and fishing excursions.
LADIES, LET’S GO FISHING!
Launched by Fort Lauderdale marketing executive Betty Bauman in the mid 1990s, this women’s fishing university has introduced thousands of women and girls to the sport through hands-on seminars and guided fishing excursions.
DEEP PELAGIC NEKTON DYNAMICS OF THE GULF OF MEXICO (DEEPEND)
A consortium of scientists from universities and other research institutions, DEEPEND studies the oceanic ecosystem in the northern Gulf of Mexico looking at the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The group also conducts education and outreach programs. Nova Southeastern University Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography is a consortium institute.
CORAL RESTORATION FOUNDATION
The Key Largo non-profit creates offshore coral nurseries and conducts reef restoration programs for critically-endangered reefs using a host of dedicated volunteers.
BONEFISH & TARPON TRUST (BTT)
This scientific/conservation organization is dedicated to ensuring healthy populations of three of the region’s most important inshore game species: bonefish, tarpon, and permit. BTT helps fund scientific research by local universities, conducts tagging studies, and lobbies for sound fisheries conservation and management.
FLORIDA KEYS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a U.S. government agency, is in charge of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary created in 1990. The sanctuary protects more than 2,900 square nautical miles of waters surrounding the Keys, including the Dry Tortugas. It is home to the world’s third-largest barrier reef with more than 6,000 species of marine life.
Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/. For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling, camping, sailing and powerboat racing. She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit.
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