Anglers Ignored as Florida Reef Fishing Ban Draws Near

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. – Keep Florida Fishing® (KFF), an advocacy arm of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), today expressed deep disappointment that the Our Florida Reefs (OFR) Community Working Group decided to advance recommendations that could significantly decrease public access to reef fishing in Southeast Florida. This decision, made at the conclusion of a two-day meeting held June 1 – 2, comes in spite of the fact that more than 95 percent of all comments received by OFR regarding National Marine Sanctuary and Marine Protected Areas were against their recommendations. OFR representatives clearly did not listen to public comment, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or the fishing community.

Keep Florida Fishing wishes to thank the overwhelming number of Florida’s fishing and boating leaders who came together en masse to speak before the OFR Community Working Group during the two-day meeting. KFF, along with its partners, will continue to voice its strong opposition to these recommendations in the months ahead, as Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection prepares its final report.

“The recreational fishing and boating community have come together to voice our concerns and to stand up for our right to fish in public waters,” said Gary Jennings, manager of Keep Florida Fishing® (KFF). “We are extremely disappointed that Our Florida Reefs has blatantly disregarded the comments of more than 3,000 members of the public who oppose proposals related to fishing restrictions and additional federal oversight of our state waters.”

On Wednesday, June 1, Jennings and KFF supporters stood in solidarity during a press conference held prior to the OFR Community Working Group’s public meeting in Coconut Creek, Fla. Speakers at the event explained why they strongly oppose OFR’s recommendations to close 20-30 percent of Southeast Florida’s coral reef tract that goes from Stuart to Key Biscayne and to make the area a National Marine Sanctuary that would give additional oversight of Florida waters to the federal government. Primary concerns voiced about the OFR process and recommendations may be found by clicking here.

“Overfishing has been linked to coral reef declines only in areas of the world without the extensive fishing regulations and management that we have here in Florida. If there is an issue with our fisheries, then other proven options should be tried first, like additional size and bag limits and seasons, before closing access to a public resource,” Kellie Ralston, ASA’s Florida fisheries policy director, told OFR representatives during the public comment period on June 1.

Ralston concluded, “Florida is the Fishing Capital of the World. Recreational fishing and boating contribute more than $9 billion to our state’s economy (much of that concentrated here in Southeast Florida) and more than 120,000 jobs. Anglers from around the world come here to spend their money and fish and are great supporters of conservation in our state, generating $46 million to support those efforts.  Closing up to 30 percent of the reef and making it more difficult for our state agencies to do their job is not going to protect the coral here, but it will significantly impact our culture and economy.”