CCA FLORIDA URGES ANGLERS TO PREPARE FOR AVALANCHE OF HUGE NO FISHING ZONE PROPOSALS
The Coastal Conservation Association of Florida, the state's largest recreational fishing conservation group, is urging saltwater anglers to prepare for a battle over huge no fishing zones along Florida's coastline. The South Atlantic Federal Fishery Management Council has released a large shopping list of 42 Marine Protected Area - No Fishing Zones from North Carolina to Florida. Nineteen of the proposed "no fishing zones" are off of Florida's east coast. The federal fishery council will begin actions on the zones at their June 21 and 22 meeting in St. Augustine.
As we feared, the approval of the Dry Tortugas no fishing Reserve has opened the floodgates for numerous new no fishing zone proposals, said Karl Wickstrom, Publisher - Florida Sportsman magazine. Many of Florida's premier saltwater fishing areas are being considered for complete prohibition on all types of recreational fishing.
The shopping listof Florida areas being considered by the South Atlantic Council include's the Islamorada Hump, Palm Beach reefs, Oculina Banks off of Ft. Pierce, Fowey Rocks - Dade County, Hobe Sound bars - Martin County, Carysfort Reef - Monroe County, Lake Worth Inlet Jetties, Blackmars and Tanzars Reef off of Jacksonville, Red Snapper Sink off of St. Augustine and 30% of all coastal areas off of Broward County.
According to CCA Florida Executive Director Ted Forsgren, saltwater anglers are facing unprecedented threats over access to coastal waters and fishing.
In the inshore areas, access is being impacted by new and proposed manatee speed zones. Now environmental groups and federal agencies are moving to create huge no fishing zones all up and down Florida's east coast, said Forsgren.
Fishermen better get active and involved or else they may soon discover that their favorite fishing spot has become a no fishing zone. CCA indicated that the stated goal of national environmental groups promoting No Fishing Zone - Marine Protected Areas is to prohibit all fishing in at least 20% of all coastal areas.
Forsgren noted that one of the best reasons to oppose the no fishing zone concept is that there are far better fishery management measures available to manage and protect grouper, snapper and other reef fish. These are proven measures, which do not go to the extreme of prohibiting all fishing all the time. However, the biggest problem has been getting the federal fishery councils to adopt the restrictive measures.
CCA Florida's reasons for opposing the No Fishing Zone - Marine Protected Areas include the following:
* There are much more effective and more enforceable management measures to protect spawning aggregations of reef fish. Far greater benefits are obtained by prohibiting harvest and sale during the spawning season. Such measures protect spawning aggregations THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE RANGE OF THE FISHERY, instead of only the No Fishing Zone subsets of the range.
* No Fishing Zones will create a large and unnecessary confrontation between fishery managers and saltwater recreational anglers - the very individuals and groups which have been the primary supporters of fisheries conservation initiatives in the past. The confrontation will delay and divert attention from enacting proven and effective management measures such as spawning season closures.
* NFZs place an unfair and disproportionate burden on fishers in the areas. Harvest restrictions should be enacted and distributed fairly throughout the range of the fishery.
* NFZs unfairly and inappropriately prohibit all forms of recreational fishing (even catch and release) on fishery stocks that are clearly healthy and not overfished - such as sailfish, redfish, dolphin and Spanish mackerel.
* NFZs place unrealistic and unfunded enforcement burdens on state and federal fish and wildlife agencies, which are already understaffed. However, spawning season closures are much simpler to enforce - simply check the catch of returning fishermen when they return to land.
* Without the necessary and proven management measures to control total commercial and recreational fishery take throughout the range of the fishery, the NFZ's will merely shift fishing effort to non-closed areas. CCA is unaware of any instance where marine no fishing reserves have been successfully used as a primary management measure to restore an overfished fishery.
We're urging the fishery council to drop the no fishing zone campaign and focus instead on proven measures like closures during spawning aggregation seasons, said Jeff McFadden, CCA Florida Chairman.
In addition, CCA cautioned anglers to beware of the bait and switch tactic which was used to create huge no fishing zones in the Gulf. In 1999, the Gulf of Mexico Federal Fishery Management Council moved to increase protection for spawning aggregations of gag grouper in several proposed Marine Protected Areas covering more than 200 square miles.
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Bernie Kegen contributes and publishes news editorial to http://www.chum-bucket.com.
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