It isn’t news that the coral reefs and marine life in Biscayne National Park have been seriously degraded.
What is news is that South Florida’s own congressmen and senators appear to be actively working to keep the National Park Service (NPS) from fulfilling its mandate to protect this unique and priceless marine environment.
Based on the best available science and after obtaining input from environmentalists and the commercial fishing community, the NPS recommended the creation of a 10,500-acre preserve within the park similar to the one created some years ago in the Dry Tortugas. The area set aside for the preserve represents only 6 percent of the entire park and 30 percent of the hard-bottom reef area.
The preserve is consistent with the NPS’s congressional mandate to conserve park resources and make them available for future generations. Given that the reef has suffered over 70 percent loss of its coral and fish species, the prohibition of fishing within the proposed preserve is the most appropriate measure to help the park recover. Diving, kayaking and boating in general will still be permitted in the preserve.
Unfortunately, some groups have refused to believe the science and have pressured Congress to overrule the NPS recommendations. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo have sponsored the euphemistically challenged “Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act” and Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have sponsored legislation that would, in effect, give a veto power to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission over the National Park System.
Their legislation would permit the short-term interests of a few to take precedence over the long-term health and viability of our unique national park. It’s time to let the NPS do its job and protect the park for all of us.
Barbara Lange, Miami