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Speak Out for Your Florida Reefs
By Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer
Anglers, divers, or anyone who enjoys the ocean off Southeast Florida needs to pay close attention and get involved in a new initiative proposed by a community group called Our Florida Reefs.
This group of anglers, divers, scientists, local government officials, business owners, conservationists and others has been working for two years on 68 wide-ranging recommendations aimed at protecting the 105-mile coral reef tract extending south from St. Lucie Inlet in Martin County to just north of Biscayne National Park in Miami-Dade County. This region of Southeast Florida was targeted because, unlike Biscayne National Park and the Keys, it has no management plan in place to balance use with protection of coral reefs.
Some of the community working group’s recommendations for saving coral are non-controversial, such as installing mooring buoys and enhancing reef education in schools. But others have drawn considerable ire from user groups both online and at public meetings.
One of the proposals–N-59– would ban spear fishing using scuba gear throughout the region –except for harvesting invasive lionfish–in order to eliminate the targeting of the largest and most fertile reef fish species. Another–S-97–would reduce the annual, two-day lobster mini-season bag limit statewide from 12 to six per day and would require lobster hunters to complete an educational program in order to receive a permit. Recommendation N-146 would establish a series of marine protected areas along the Southeast Florida coast that includes no-take zones; seasonal closures to protect spawning aggregations; no-anchoring areas; and coral restoration areas.
You– the ocean user– have until March 1 to review and comment on these proposals. Then they will be forwarded to local, state and federal agencies for action.
You can provide comments on the Our Florida Reefs website or at public meetings this month from noon to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 16 at Holiday Park Social Center, 1150 G. Harold Martin Dr., Fort Lauderdale; Feb. 17 at Newman Alumni Center at University of Miami, 6200 San Amaro Dr., Coral Gables; and Feb.18 at Kovens Conference Center, FIU/Biscayne Bay Campus, 3000 NE 151 St., North Miami.
If this really is a community planning process and not being executed at the behest of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, then what you say counts. Speak up.
Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/. For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling camping, sailing and powerboat racing. She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit.
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