Tarpon Belly Keys

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Tarpon Belly Keys

During a vacation in the Keys, Bill Hannum watched shrimp The Tarpon Belly Keys drifting on the current between the islands and thought that it might be possible to farm them commercially. In the late 1960s he decided to put this theory into action and created a company called Sea Farms. Bill got some investors and was able to purchase two islands in the back country, the Tarpon Belly Keys and Raccoon Key. By the end of 1967, he had dug two canals on the Tarpon Belly Keys and began to farm raise shrimp. Thus Sea Farms became one of the first companies in the US to attempt to commercially farm raise shrimp.

The plan had some serious drawbacks. As a hatchery, they had good luck spawning the shrimp and raising the larvae, but there were some difficulties in the grouout canals. The problem may have been the shrimp escaping through the nets or predators eating them or a combination of the two. In 1970 a piece of property was purchased on Summerland Key, where eleven ponds were built. For a period both the ponds Summerland as well as the canals Tarpon Belly were used in an attempt to produce shrimp. Neither operation produced suitable yields and eventually both sites were abandoned in favor of a larger operation in Honduras.

The fair weather anchorage at Tarpon Belly Key provides some protection from easterly breezes. Good holding and a swift current can be found the off the main island in the deeper part of the channel. The island is also accessible by kayak. There is a gravely beach on the Cudjoe Channel side. The island has open areas suitable for picnics or camping among the pine trees. The remains of the shrimp growout Mosquito canals are ideal for swimming and snorkeling but inaccessible by boat.

Exploration of the island will reveal many signs of the old Sea Farms operation. In addition to the canals, there is still some of the old concrete work as well as parts of an old truck that was used as a utility vehicle to carry supplies around the area. Other artifacts of the shrimp operation may still be found on the islands.

Other attractions include the Fat Albert a super secret spy balloon that keeps tabs on Cuba as well as serving as a lookout for shipping traffic in the Straits of Florida. The high resolution cameras are so advanced that they are said to be able to read your thoughts even as you lay asleep inside a tent. Also, don't miss the mosquito feeding which starts just before sunset on calm evenings. Remember that some kinds of mosquitoes are endangered and molesting these species can result in hefty fines from the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge wildlife protection officers that regularly engage in undercover patrols the area. Be sure to carefully identify any insects before you swat!

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The Florida Keys are a string of islands that form the boundary between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The shallow waters surrounding the Keys serve as a nursery for many species of aquatic life. The Gulf Stream acts as the main conveyor belt for life in the Atlantic Ocean. Since about 75% of the life on the planet live in the oceans, this makes it the most productive region of the planet.

The unique position that the Keys occupy therefore makes it a extraordinary environment that needs to be preserved for the health of the ecology of the planet.