Couple Departs Dry Tortugas After 12 Years

Living 70 miles west of Key West — in the Civil War era fort that imprisoned Dr. Mudd — sounds isolating. But long-time Key Westers Eloise and Chuck Pratt found it so hard to leave that two years ago they broke down and cried on their first attempt. Why now? Because of shoddy phone service.
The story also caught my eye because I helped start a group called Reef Relief in 1987, and the Pratts had kept one of our posters on their far-out wall. Reef Relief’s mission was to gain acceptance for a National Marine Sanctuary in the Keys. Without Federal involvement, we knew that the reef would fall victim to local infighting. Meanwhile, founders Craig and DeeVon Quirolo installed the first mooring buoys on the reefs, preventing further damage from anchors in heavily visited spots. Reef Relief achieved its goal to help bring attention to the reefs’ decline, and on November 16, 1990, Congress passed Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Protection Act. We received a Presidential Point of Light award for our efforts. The Dry Tortugas was a central focus of the Sanctuary, because of its importance as a staging ground for fish reproduction and recruitment.

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