Panning for Gold: Impoverished People Can Be Useful Props for Protesters | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

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Panning for Gold: Impoverished People Can Be Useful Props for Protesters

It's been a discouraging week to be a South Floridian, so it's high time we renew our Panning for Gold series, in which we attempt to prove that ours is the (slightly) superior civilization.

Concerns about over-fishing in the Florida Panhandle led the National Marine Fisheries Service to put the kybosh on the charter boat services that operate out of Fort Walton Beach. The angry charter fishermen needed an eye-catching means for making their protest heard, so the picked a corner of the city where vagrants are known to flock and beg for coins.

From the Northwest Florida Daily News:
"We said, 'Why don't we stand out there with all the homeless folks, since the National Marine Fisheries is going to make us homeless?' " said boat captain Greg Marler.

There's a slideshow of the protest, but it's hard to find the vagrants -- either that they were given a buck to hold a sign.

Another captain, Steve Land, put the blame on a single big-government bureaucrat:

Land, who said he's gone from fishing to taking tourists to see dolphins, held up a sign that read, "Save a fisherman and our fish, uproot a Crabtree."

The Crabtree reference was to Roy Crabtree, regional administrator at the National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Regional Office.

Crabtree has become a focal point for objections the fishermen like to raise about flawed federal fish counts and bureaucrats so far removed from the actual fishing they can't possibly know what's happening beneath the waters they regulate.

"Their counting system is so flawed. If they'd jump on a boat with us they'd see how many fish there are out there," Greg Marler said. "My dad is 74 years old and he says snapper fishing is better than it has been in years."

Nothin' against your pop, Marler, but his self-serving, unscientific opinion is a bit less credible than the fish-counting technology and analysis that the feds have at their fingertips.

And just maybe they're doing you all a favor. However annoying it is to reduce the fishing season, if the Fort Walton Beach coast was over-fished, then there wouldn't be any season at all. In that scenario, you and your pals just might have to make a permanent place among the pan-handling vagrants.