As an avid recreational angler, I applaud your June 20 editorial, Saving Biscayne National Park. I have fished Biscayne’s waters during the past four decades and have seen firsthand the decline of invaluable coral reef habitat and fisheries because of overuse and overfishing.
The proposed Biscayne National Park Fishery Management Plan offers a compromise that balances fishing with resource protection. However, more is needed. The plan must be accompanied by the creation of a marine reserve through the park’s general management plan, which would provide the necessary balance between use and conservation. A marine reserve would maintain access to fishing in the majority of the park while also protecting Biscayne National Park’s world-class resources.
There is a clear relationship between a healthy coral reef ecosystem and healthy fish populations. Marine reserves have been proven to show results quickly, offering long-term benefits by protecting coral reefs, increasing fish size, and improving species diversity. Some of the best fishing spots in the world are located just outside the borders of marine reserves.
Visitors come from across the country and around the globe to visit Biscayne National Park, with almost 500,000 visitors annually who spend more than $29 million here in South Florida, and they expect to see something that resembles a national park — the aquatic equivalent of Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon. Our national parks are known as “America’s Best Idea.” They must be held to higher standard of protection in order to offer the highest quality conditions for all current and future visitors to enjoy, including anglers, boaters, students, snorkelers, divers, kayakers and birders.
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The National Park Service is taking a step in the right direction with its fishery and general management plans for Biscayne. A marine reserve, however, must be included in order to fully protect and preserve coral reefs and fish at Biscayne National Park now, and for years to come.
Jack Curlett, member, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council, Key Largo