Mar 28, 2023 - News

FWC seeks public input on anchoring in the Florida Keys

A sailboat with two full triangular sails in clear blue waters on a sunny day

A sailboat near Fort Zachary Taylor State Beach in 2021 in Key West, Florida. Photo: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images.

Florida's Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is seeking input from the public as it formulates new rules about where boaters can anchor long-term in Monroe County.

Why it matters: New rules could impact the workforce in the Florida Keys, where hundreds of people live permanently on their anchored boats, some because they cannot afford homes on land or the cost of staying docked at a marina.

Zoom in: The average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Key West is $3,100, according to

  • It can cost thousands of dollars per month to rent dock space at a marina, and slips are scarce, Steven McAlearney, Port and Marina Services Director for the City of Key West, told Axios.
  • Key West has 150 mooring buoys available for $399 per month, but those are almost always full, he said.
  • Around Key West, an estimated 200 boats are anchored out in the open water for free, with liveaboards making them their permanent homes and riding small dinghies to and from the shore.

Catch up quick: Last year, a change to state law designated Monroe County as an "anchoring limitation area," requiring vessels to pull anchor and move at least once every 90 days.

  • The law came after years of contention, with boaters accused of harming the seafloor. But some fired back that moving frequently and setting anchor in new spots could cause even more environmental damage.

Details: The FWC has proposed seven locations from Marathon to Key West as new designated anchoring areas, where boaters can anchor for 90 days at a time.

  • The commission is accepting public comment on the areas through April 30.

Of note: The new rules are unlikely to have much effect on boaters making short trips to the Keys.

What they're saying: Steven McAlearney, port and marina services director for the City of Key West, told Axios, "When you come to work, your house is floating out there. It can be rainy and windy, so when you have your anchor set, you don't really want to move."

  • "But the state is worried about the bay bottom, seagrass and the fact that boats can become derelict and it can become a taxpayer burden to get rid of them — so I see both sides of the issue."

What we're watching: The county is working to create hundreds of additional moorings.


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