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You now have more time to comment on new fishing rules for Keys Marine Sanctuary

If you want to sound off on the proposed changes to fishing rules throughout the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, you’ve been granted more time by the federal agency.

A meeting in Key West earlier this month drew hundreds of people. The crowd included fishermen and boat captains protesting the proposals — which include adding eight no-fishing zones — as a plan that would hurt their livelihoods.

Now the sanctuary, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has added time to its Oct. 15 Sanctuary Advisory Council meeting in Key West and its Dec. 10 advisory council meeting in Islamorada. Both meetings run from 1 to 9 p.m.

Public comment will be taken from 3:30 to 5 p.m. and from 6 to 9 p.m. The agency asks people to sign up before they are called upon.

Also, the agency has added an informational meeting in Marathon that’s set for Nov. 6 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Marathon Middle High School.

Speakers have up to three minutes each.

“As time, space, and parking are limited, groups are strongly encouraged to designate a speaker to allow for the greatest number of views to be expressed,” said Gena Parsons, a spokeswoman for the sanctuary.

The advisory council meetings start at 1 p.m.. Members will talk about NOAA’s proposed changes to the sanctuary’s boundaries, marine zones, regulations and management plan.

The meetings are available on a livestream and the recordings are posted on YouTube.

An additional opportunity to give oral comment will take place at a public meeting on November 6 at Marathon Middle High School, 6 to 9 p.m., with speaker sign-up beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Verbal statements can be supplemented by detailed written comments submitted at meetings and online at www.regulations.gov.

NOAA will take comments on the proposals through January 31, 2020. The plan, called the “Restoration Blueprint,” is available by clicking here.

The sanctuary’s schedule includes the following meetings:

  • Informational session in Tavernier on Oct. 7 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Coral Shores High School, 89901 Old Highway.
  • Public meeting in Coral Gables on Oct. 28 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the University of Miami Newman Alumni Center 6200 San Amaro Drive.
  • Public meeting in Fort Myers on Nov. 4 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Airport at Town Center, 9931 Interstate Commerce Drive.
  • Public meeting in Marathon on Nov. 6 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Marathon Middle High School, 350 Sombrero Beach Road.
  • Sanctuary Advisory Council in Islamorada on Dec. 10 from 1 to 9 p.m. at the Islander Resort, 82100 Overseas Highway.
Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was part of the staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune that in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.
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