Biscayne National Park and its managers failed to earn the public’s trust in the development of a highly manipulated General Management Plan worthy of an investigation by the Inspector General’s office. The plan so misleading, Rep. Carlos Curbelo was granted a House Natural Resources Committee Field Hearing in August of 2015 in Homestead to address it.
Park officials failed to produce any credible evidence to support their proposed actions and were severely chastised by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and industry for out of date and misapplied science; catch/effort studies that insulted one’s intelligence, failure to abide by memorandums of understanding and downplaying the impacts of a proposed closure certain to wreak economic havoc on small businesses and generations of commercial fishermen in South Florida and the Upper Keys.
This prompted Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to sponsor legislation (HR-3310) preventing large scale closures without appropriate scrutiny and approval of state jurisdictional agencies. That legislation has passed the House and Sens. Nelson and Rubio have now introduced the Senate version (S-3099).
The park does not have a fisheries problem. Key indicator species of snapper and grouper have all been formally assessed within the past five years and all have been rated good to excellent. The biggest impact to corals continues to be climactic change and diver interactions similar to what is happening in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Despite a proven correlation between coral damage and the number of mooring buoys in a given area, the park plan would increase diver activity by increasing the number of mooring buoys in the proposed closed area.
We need to rethink our priorities and take steps to address and correct the following: the continued dumping of billions of gallons of hot, super-saline, highly radiated water into nearshore waters by the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant; repeated sewage failures in Miami/Dade dumping hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage into Biscayne Bay; increasing law enforcement to prevent poaching and trap molestation, enforce fishing regulations and diving activity. (There are three park service, on-the-water, law enforcement officers for all 173,000 acres bordering the 8th largest metropolitan area in the U.S.)
Therefore, we fully endorse the legislative actions taken by Reps. Ros-Lehtinen/Curbelo and Sens. Nelson/Rubio for the benefit of all South Floridians and the millions of visitors annually to Biscayne National Park.
Bill Kelly, executive director, Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association, Marathon