The special interests Lloyd Brown refers to in his Aug. 26 letter, Park plan will save fish and jobs, about Biscayne National Park’s General Management Plan just happens to be some of the finest commercial fishermen, fish houses, restaurants and fishing guides in the world.
All have been harvesting sustainably in the park for decades, supplying millions of consumers with fresh seafood worldwide or treating tens of thousands of visitors to the catch and release of Florida’s most sought after gamefish.
Fifteen years in the making, the management plan is fraught with problems. Park officials have been less than transparent, advisory working groups haven’t met for more than 12 years, science utilization has been labeled as “inappropriately applied” and financial and sociological impacts have been downplayed as next to zero.
The plan is so problematic that U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called for a House Natural Resources Committee and Small Business Administration field hearing that took place on Aug. 3 in Homestead.
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Nine witnesses testified before Chairman Rob Bishop and five congressional representatives at which Jessica McCawley, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, withdrew state support for the plan.
Capt. Jimbo Thomas questioned park science citing catch statistics so absurd they insult one’s intelligence. Capt. Ernie Piton attested to a plan that would send 50,000 lobster/stone crab traps into the Florida Keys.
Biscayne National Park, South Florida and the Keys do not have a fishing problem.
Key indicator species of snapper and grouper in all three areas have had recent, formal stock assessments, and all have been rated good to excellent. In the same period, commercial harvest of spiny lobsters has generated some of the highest yields in the history of the fishery.
Most damage to corals occurred because of El Nino of 1997-98 and the extreme cold snap of 2010.
For good measure, throw in poor water quality, the affect of unregulated divers and a lack of law enforcement with three on-the-water officers to patrol 173,000 acres abutting the nation’s eighth largest metropolis.
Based on the facts, Ros-Lehtinen introduced HR 3310 that would prohibit the National Marine Sanctuaries from initiating large-scale closures without the approval of the Fish and Wildlife Commission in the state or territory they adjoin.
Lloyd Brown is only partly correct. Someone isn’t telling the truth, and a formal investigation by the inspector general’s office would help point the finger.
Capt. Bill Kelly, executive director, Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen's Association, Marathon