Possible Fishing Closures in the Florida Keys

Possible Fishing Closures in the Florida Keys

The waters surrounding the Florida Keys are managed by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), which is currently developing changes to its General Management Plan (GMP) that may significantly impact recreational fishing access and management, including more restrictive fishing regulations and new or expanded marine no-fishing zones.

The marine zoning and regulatory review is a public process to determine whether current sanctuary regulations are sufficient to achieve the purpose for which the sanctuary was established. Once finalized, the GMP will be effective for the next 10 years. The next step in the GMP development process is for NOAA to issue a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), followed by a period of public comment, which is expected to occur in early 2016.

Our Position

ASA strongly supports scientifically-based management of our marine and freshwater resources.  Anglers are conservationists first and foremost and have a long history of making sacrifices for the betterment of the resources. These include targeted area closures where the science has clearly indicated they are the best solutions to conserve fish and sensitive habitat and other management approaches have failed.

However, ASA is concerned that the process to update the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary General Management Plan may result in unnecessary and overly restrictive new regulations that will limit recreational fishing opportunities and harm the local economy.

Issue Background

The development of a revised General Management Plan, that began in September of 2011, is led by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Sanctuary Advisory Council and is expected to last into 2016. The Advisory Council is comprised of representatives of various stakeholder groups including recreational boating, environmental interests, divers, both commercial and recreational fishing, tourism and others. The Advisory Council holds no regulatory authority, but rather provides input and advice to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which makes regulatory changes to sanctuary management and operations. However, the Advisory Council’s input holds considerable weight.

To aid in the development of a revised General Management Plan, the Advisory Council established three working groups to craft recommendations on their area of interest for consideration by the Advisory Council. These working groups developed recommendations that will significantly affect recreational fishing and boating in the sanctuary, including new or expanding no-fishing zones and implementing “user fees” or alternative funding mechanisms.

The Sanctuary Advisory Council adopted all three working groups’ recommendations as a final package during summer 2014. The council's Ecosystem Protection Working Group, tasked with assessing the existing Sanctuary Protection Areas and larger Ecological Reserves, did not recommend any new large reserves after holding more than 20 meetings over the last year. The working group recommendations will be used by the Superintendent to craft official alternatives for a Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Some members of the Sanctuary Advisory Council have expressed interest in considering new large no-take reserves in the Draft Management Plan.

The next step in the GMP development process is for NOAA to issue a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), followed by a period of public comment, which is expected to occur in early 2016.