Stories from the Blue: Bruce Popham

April 2017

"Why do I care? Because we want clean water here and we want vibrant life." Bruce Popham runs the Marathon Boat Yard Marine Center and is a member of the Sanctuary Advisory Council for Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Check out his Story from the Blue to learn what the sanctuary means to him and how he is working to preserve the amazing ecosystems of the Florida Keys.


Hi, I'm Bruce Popham.

Welcome to Marathon Boat Yard Marine Center.

I'm the owner and operator of this facility.

We run the only clean-designated boatyard in the Florida Keys for the Department Environmental Protection of the state of Florida.

I sit on the Sanctuary Advisory Council for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

I represent the marine industry seat. Our council was the very first ever put together for any National Marine Sanctuary.

We have 20 seats and they represent a broad cross-section of businesses in the community.

Not only the marine industry seat like we are, but the dive industry, tourism industry, elected officials, so it's a good representation across the board of the community.

My focus as a businessman within the sanctuary is to try to keep a balance of running a business and still being able to have the right things going on in the sanctuary.

And that's a challenge. Florida is the number one destination in the country for cruisers to come to and the number one destination in Florida is the Florida Keys.

Boaters want to go places that are pretty and pristine and have really nice water and within the National Marine Sanctuary which is a 2,900 square miles of protected water you know we want to do everything we can to make sure that water stays as pristine with a very vibrant marine environment in it.

What I'd like to do is to show you a little bit around my boat yard and show you some of the things that we do.

This is a vacuum bag sander so when we're doing sanding work you can see the vacuum attaches to it here so when we do bottom work - and most modems bottom paints nowadays have copperous oxide in them - so we want to capture all of the dust off this boat into the bag and then we can then you can dispose of this properly.

But what you don't want is you don't want that dirt and dust to get on the ground because then it washes into the water.

Well copperous oxide is a poisonous item.

We don't sand any boat with any bottom paint any antifouling paint on it without the vacuum bag sander.

We recycle a tremendous amount of stuff.

A lot of stuff that comes off the boats we recycle.

The money that we get from our people that come in and buy our recycling from us all goes into a fund that goes into bonus structure at the end of the year so they participate in the recycling.

Steel, aluminum, bronze, electrical wire, which is primarily copper, we also recycle oil, oil filters, antifreeze, batteries.

We take hazardous waste like fluorescent light bulbs and mercury out of bilge pumps.

We recycle a lot of stuff. This is kind of a staging area for us here you can see these folks are loading up some steel here for...

The big challenge we have here is that we're loving the keys to death.

We have over three million people a year to come to Keys and the impact that amount of people in these small islands is dramatic and we're going to have to balance that out somehow. And it's going to be a real challenge.

The resource itself is hanging on getting, better in some areas, but not getting well in other areas.

And in order for us to be successful and keep this going for another 25 years or more we're going to be a little more aggressive than some of what we do in regard to to controlling some of the business aspects of it.

Why do I care? Because we want clean water here and we want vibrant life. This is a national marine sanctuary, so we don't want to poison going back to the water.

You can be part of the problem or part of the solution, that's your choice of what you wanna be so I choose to be part of the solution.