SOUTHEAST FLORIDA — Your business could be at stake. Whether you fish or own a fishing-related business in southeast Florida — or whether you fish and operate a business elsewhere — the fishing restrictions threatening the area from Stuart to Key Biscayne will impact you sooner or later and you have the power to do something about it.
On June 1 and 2 at the Fern Forest Nature Center in Coconut Creek, Florida, the Our Florida Reefs (OFR) community working group will hold hearings regarding the potential closure of coral reefs to fishing.
“We’re hoping that retailers in Southeast Florida will take some time off on Wednesday morning and show up,” said ASA Vice President of Industry Relations Glenn Hughes. “We need you to tell your customers about this. Print out fliers, put them on your door and spread the word. This is the last chance for public comment on the closures.”
Public comments will be taken beginning at 9:30 a.m. on both days, but there’s power in numbers and the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and Keep Florida Fishing (KFF) suggest that you be there and be seen and heard on June 1.
OFR is a self-described “community planning process for southeast Florida’s coral reefs.” It is “hosted” by the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI). Their stated goal is to “ensure healthy coral reefs in the future.”
We all want healthy coral reefs, but there are a couple of problems with OFR’s plan:
(1) OFR’s proposed fishing restrictions and additional federal oversight are going to hit anglers (and the communities that rely on them — including area retailers) very hard;
(2) The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and its Keep Florida Fishing (KFF) Initiative maintain that OFR’s proposed restrictions are not properly supported by science. In particular, KFF has stated, OFR “has completely disregarded the sound, science-based opinions of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)….”
What They Want
No one wants to harm the coral reefs off the coast of southeast Florida, least of all the anglers who fish there and the businesses and communities that rely on their support. But OFR has failed to show that anglers or angling are the cause of any fisheries problems in the area.
OFR recommends closing 20-30 percent of the reef tract in southeast Florida to fishing through no-take Marine Protected Areas. It also supports federal designations that could lead to more closures. According to KFF, more than 95 percent (over 3,000 people) of all public comment submitted opposed ORF’s recommendations.
Nonetheless, OFR supports severe fishing restrictions and potential federal closures.
Too Far, Too Soon
KFF recognizes that “significant issues are affecting the coral reef tract in southeast Florida.” It lists “water quality, temperature, acidification and sedimentation from beach re-nourishment and construction” as contributing factors in reef decline.
With so many other likely explanations, overfishing seems an unlikely villain. In fact, overfishing has been linked to coral reef decline only in areas without extensive fishing regulations and management. Florida fisheries are meticulously managed, and options other than additional fishing restrictions should be tried before closing these areas to angling.
Recreational fishing in Florida generates more than $9.3 billion in annual economic activity and supports more than 123,000 jobs. Each year, more than three million 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.
Fishing is critically important to Florida’s economy and perhaps vital to your personal economy.
A Call to Action
Whether you’re a southeast Florida tackle retailer, a southeast Florida angler, an area business owner who recognizes the value of fishing to the local economy or someone who simply realizes that your waters could be next, it’s time to act.
Be there and be heard next Wednesday morning … whatever your opinion on the issue.
Too often we sit idly by, complaining that events larger than we are control our fates. Most of the time, that’s not true. Most of the time, we can do something … if we just make the effort. Most of the time, we can accomplish our goals and make things better for ourselves, our families and the people and things we care about.
This is one of those times, but you have to make the effort. And you have to believe that good things will happen if you fight for them. Worse, bad things could happen if you don’t.
Let OFR see you standing up for fishing on June 1 and 2. Meanwhile, you can use these links to get to the KFF flier and talking points. Print them out. Make plenty of copies and spread them around to others who care. We all have a lot to lose.