Florida Keys

FWC / Keys InfoNet

Two Miami men pleaded no contest Wednesday in Monroe County Circuit Court to a third-degree felony charge in a case of sea turtle mutilation.

David Hernandez-Sordo, 49, and Pedro Suarez, 60, were sentenced to 18 months' probation, said Assistant Monroe State Attorney Anna Hubicki, who prosecuted the case. They also pled no contest to a second-degree misdemeanor charge.

Mike Echevarria / Florida Aquarium

Submerged 250 to 300 feet in the Gulf of Mexico lies a coral reef that could hold the key to crucial information and resources for the Florida Keys reef. 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research cruise is currently operating at Pulley Ridge, 100 miles west of Key West, where scientists are using a remotely operated vehicle to collect videos and samples from the sea floor.

Rob O'Neal / Florida Keys News Service

The annual spiny lobster season opens Thursday, when commercial trappers can start pulling traps from the water and divers and recreational fishers can start grabbing the crustaceans.

"We never know what's going to happen until they make those first pulls and we see what the market's going to bear," said Bill Kelly, executive director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen's Association.

NPR/ Flickr

The Monroe Board of County Commissioners Wednesday told the county attorney to move forward with an ordinance that would allow police officers to give a civil citation, instead of a misdemeanor criminal charge, to people caught with small amounts of marijuana.

Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Service

Since the Monroe County Tax Collector took over enforcement of unlicensed vacation rentals Jan. 1, the agency has collected $52,000 in taxes and resolved hundreds of cases, according to Tax Collector Danise Henriquez.

Monroe County Sheriff's Office

In the Florida Keys, serious medical cases are often airlifted to a hospital on the mainland. But how much a patient pays can vary widely, depending on which helicopter gets the call.

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office and the county Fire-Rescue Department run Trauma Star, which is based at the Marathon Airport. When a Keys resident is airlifted on Trauma Star, the county bills the insurance company. But Monroe County residents don't have to pay anything above what insurance pays.

Flickr Creative Commons

As Atlantic hurricane season nears, Monroe County wants to make sure Florida Keys residents are prepared.

One big change in Monroe County’s hurricane plan is that Florida International University will no longer be a shelter for the general public, according to Irene Toner, director of Monroe’s Office of Emergency Management.

She says only Monroe residents with special needs will shelter there. The general population will instead stay at Miami-Dade Fair Grounds, which will allow pets.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

When it comes to affordable housing, the Florida Keys face a quadruple whammy: low supply, high demand, strict growth limits and a tourism industry that pays low service-sector wages.

That's the conclusion of a new study from the Florida State University Consensus Center. Affordable housing woes are not new to the Keys. But the pressure eased some during the recession, according to Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi.

Bob Krist / Florida Keys News Service

The tourism industry in the Florida Keys is booming with high occupancy and record-high room rates this season. Still, the Monroe County Tourist Development Council this week released a report (see it at the end of this post) on unlicensed vacation rentals and rental scams, calling for a crackdown by local governments.

The Keys have 15,000 licensed lodging units — that includes hotel rooms, campsites and homes with licenses for short-term rentals. In most of the Keys, short-term is defined as less than a month.

Christopher / Flickr/Creative Commons

The Florida Keys like to consider themselves as a place apart from mainland South Florida. But starting this weekend, life on the island chain will be just like Miami-Dade in one way. 

Keys business and tourism leaders fought against 10-digit dialing when it was first proposed for the island chain. They said it would make it harder for visitors and customers to reach them.

The state agreed in 2005 to delay the change for as long as possible. The Keys held out for 10 years, but they’ve finally reached the end of the road for seven-digit dialing.

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