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Tuesday, January 31, 2012. Key West Citizen. Letters to the Editor

In 1996, as a volunteer certified diver, I went down to the Florida Keys to assist in mapping out the reef at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. I was one of more than 100 volunteer divers for this project. In three weeks we mapped out the entire reef for the state of Florida. This reef was to be preserved as a state park.

I have just learned that the bottom of this reef is currently full of garbage — not being preserved — and I am very perturbed that this could have happened. I find out that people are still hand-feeding dolphins, which is a federal offense, and they are dumping trash, which sinks to the bottom and has settled on the reef.

Garbage being on the bottom of the reef greatly threatens the wildlife that depends on the reef for housing and survival. Dolphins use the reef to hunt for the fish, as do crabs and other varieties. Bonefish, bonita, blue marlin, dolphins and all other species depend on the reef for their existence.I don’t understand why people don’t respect this.

I reside in the mountains of South Carolina, where I am retired. I would appeal to those who live in Monroe County to take up the cause and take care of your underwater wildlife at the John Pennekamp reef.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission does not have the funding and people resources to patrol these waters effectively. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the people residing in Monroe County to organize teams of volunteers to care for the waters in this area. Small teams of volunteers could be organized to start this process.

Perhaps someone reading this is an organizer. It only takes one dog in the pack to lead others. Of course, effective change starts with just one person and grows from there.

If you love your waters — those beautiful clear blue waters that many of us don’t have the access to — you’ll rise up and begin to save the gorgeous Pennekamp reef.

William Highfill

West Union, S.C.