20-30% of SE Florida’s Nearshore Reef Closing Permanently to Fishing?
Yes, this is what the Our Florida Reefs (OFR) program has proposed and their final meeting is on June 1-2 in Coconut Creek. Coastal Conservation Association Florida (CCA) will once again be there stating our opposition to the closures and other adverse proposals made by OFR, as well as showing our support for the positive proposals. This is the last opportunity for the public to voice their opinions!
Will you be there?
When: June 1st 9:30-10:30 AM & June 2nd 10:45 – 12PM
Where: Fern Forest Nature Center,
201 Lyons Road South, Coconut Creek, FL.
CCA supports healthy fisheries and habitat, including our coral reefs.
When appropriate, CCA has supported a number of spawning season area closures in the South Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. CCA’s mission is focused on scientific approaches to sound fisheries management for present and future generations to enjoy the resource. Within these parameters, CCA supports angler access.
The OFR program is a planning process for southeast Florida’s coral reefs that have been meeting and planning since 2013. They have proposed 68 Recommended Management Actions (RMAs), including RMA N-146. N-146 proposes 7 closed fishing areas or Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along the reef tract from Stuart to Biscayne, comprising 20-30% of the entire reef. Permanently closed – never to open up to fishing again. CCA does not believe that MPAs should ever be implemented to stop fishing unless they are being used as a last resort not a first stage management tool. While CCA is opposed to implementing no take/no fishing zones or Sanctuaries, we have requested that fisheries managers instead consider protecting spawning aggregations by limited time and area closures if warranted by stock assessments and good fisheries management practices.
CCA also opposes RMA S-65 which recommends making application to have the entire southeast Florida reef tract designated as a national marine sanctuary, effectively removing it from state and FWC management. This would create an unnecessary layer of federally managed bureaucracy which is unnecessary given the effective fisheries management already being performed by the state. Likewise, we are opposed to the RMA’s that include applying for United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage site status for the entire Florida Reef Tract, and establishing coral reef gardens.
CCA strongly supports N-69 and S-28 as the massive discharges of fresh water to our estuaries must be reduced to acceptable levels and the natural flow of fresh water to the south into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay is needed. CCA is also in favor of the working group’s RMA N-137, which protects the reefs by limiting anchoring by large vessels in designated areas.
Please come out and have your voice heard by attending the upcoming June 1st and 2nd meetings at Fern Forest Nature Center, 201 Lyons Road South, Coconut Creek, FL. The public comment period will be from 9:30-10:30am on June 1st, and from 10:45-12pm on June 2nd – speakers are allotted 3 minutes each.
Talking Points Summary
We strongly oppose the Our Florida Reefs Community Working Group’s (OFR) recommendations relating to fishing restrictions and additional federal oversight over Florida’s state fisheries in the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Tract that goes from Stuart to Key Biscayne. Specific concerns are as follows:
No Scientific Evidence
OFR lacks credible scientific evidence indicating that anglers are the cause of any fisheries problems that need to be addressed in the area. The group has completely disregarded the sound, science-based opinions of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), an agency recognized worldwide as a leader in fisheries management.
Bias Favoring Fishing Closures
Educational presentations to OFR were heavily biased toward fishing closures, driving fishing interests away from the table. OFR alienated the fishing community and industry participants throughout the process and never sought to re-engage these important stakeholders.
Dismissing Public Opinion
OFR dismissed the opinions of more than 3,000 members of the public who opposed OFR’s recommendations for closing 20-30 percent of the reef tract to fishing through no-take Marine Protected Areas, as well as recommendations for federal designations that could lead to more closures. These ignored comments represented more than 95 percent of the input submitted for these recommendations.
Failure to Address the Real Problems
Significant issues are affecting the coral reef tract in southeast Florida. Water quality, temperature, acidification and sedimentation from beach re-nourishment and construction are all contributing factors to the decline of our reefs and require immediate attention. Overfishing has been linked to coral reef declines only in areas of the world without the extensive fishing regulations and management that we have in Florida. If there is a problem with fisheries in the area, other management options should be tried first, before closing an area to fishing.
Recreational fishing is an important industry in Florida, generating more than $9.3 billion in economic activity and supporting more than 123,000 jobs.
Each year more than 3 million resident and visiting anglers support fisheries management in Florida by contributing $46.5 million through license fees, excise taxes on fishing gear and special taxes on motor boat fuel.
Please get active to make your voice heard. Even if you don’t live in Florida, you may one day want to visit there and tap our amazingly diverse fisheries.
You don’t want to show up and find a big “NO FISHING” sign.
If you can’t attend in person, you can make a personal comment here for what it’s worth. We have to try because if we don’t they will take it away without a fight.
One of the best ways to fight unnecessary fishing closures is to join one or all of the organizations fighting to keep you public access to fishing.