It doesn’t surprise John Labash to pull yet another stone crab trap out of the Gulf of Mexico and find an octopus has gobbled up his profits.
He just bags the octopus and sells it to Bell Fish Co. in Cortez, where it will be sold as a Mediterranean dinner entrée, and that’ll teach it, by golly.
What did raise an eyebrow, and his curiosity, was the golf ball that an octopus apparently brought into the trap with it.
The first time.
Then it happened again. And again - five times, he says. So, even if you take into account the Mark Twainish exaggeration of any fish story, that’s at least a couple or three times.
Apparently, octopi view plastic stone crab traps like HGTV fans view the annual designer home giveaway - it’s chic, it’s free and you want to put your own personal touch on it – in this case, a dimpled plastic ball filled with environmentally incorrect rubber string.
Octopi bring shells and rocks into crab traps to make cozy nests, Labash says, so from the octopus standpoint, a golf ball may be the perfect home décor item - a perfectly round objet d’art with clean lines, very modern, they give it a 10. If it was stainless steel, they’d put it in their kitchen.
“They just throw them in there and set up shop,” he says.
Are octopi just nearsighted, mistaking golf balls for sea turtle egg appetizers?
Or are they obsessive/compulsive janitors of the Gulf, whisking up what humans leave behind and cleverly putting the trash into a trap that another human will clean up?
And what’s up with people golfing into the Gulf, anyway?
There oughtta be a law.
As a matter of fact, the state litter law (FS 403.413) lists garbage, refuse, trash, cans, bottles, boxes, containers, paper, tobacco products, appliances, mechanical equipment, building material, machinery, wood, motor vehicles, vessels, aircraft and lots of other things as litter.
But, says Capt. Carol Keyser, of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “There’s nothing that references golf balls.”
However, she’s quick to add, “That doesn’t make it morally right” to golf into the Gulf. “We encourage people not to do that. Can’t you just go to a golf course?”
There’s one conveniently located in Holmes Beach, by the way, where the city code is also devoid of Gulf golfing regulations.
“It is something that probably should be brought up” to the city commission, Holmes Beach Code Enforcement Officer Nancy Hall said.
The Anna Maria code also is as silent as a putting green at Augusta.
“Who would have thought anyone would do that?” Code Enforcement Officer Gerry Rathvon wondered.
Sgt. Dave Turner, of the Sheriff’s Office in Anna Maria, said that if an officer saw someone golfing on the beach, “We would ask them to stop, and take their name.”
Bradenton Beach police would speak to a hacker practicing his sand trap maneuvers too, but there’s nothing in the city code about it, an officer said.
But golfers beware of Jay Moyles, Manatee County’s chief lifeguard.
“If someone’s out there with a golf club playing ‘Caddyshack,’ we’re going to say ‘no way,’” at least on Manatee and Coquina public beaches, he said. What if the golfer slices and hits someone at the concession stand?
Golfers will even go out on boats equipped with green artificial turf on the stern, he said, an idea inspired by cruise ships with driving ranges. To heck with the effect on the residents of the Gulf.
In an old Seinfeld sitcom episode, George Costanza saved a beached whale by taking a golf ball out of its blowhole.
But in real life, last April, a golf ball was found in the stomach of a beached whale near Seattle. It probably didn’t kill him, but it didn’t do him any favors, either.
That same month, oil began to gush into the Gulf from the Deepwater Horizon well.
In comparison, golf balls are small things.
But the cumulative effect is a concern, says Grea cq Bevis, chief of the law enforcement division of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
“It’s a litter violation for sure. It’s solid waste, because the golfer has no intention of retrieving the ball,” he said.
It’s the first time DEP has heard of such a thing, and the department plans to take an educational approach before filing charges against golfers, he said.
So, golfers, how about sticking to the sand at the golf course?
And enjoy that octopus on the menu at the clubhouse.