Letters to the Editor

Senators right to block preserve Biscayne National Park Marine reserve

Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., recently introduced a bill, which has already passed out of committee, to stop an unwarranted marine reserve in Biscayne National Park. In the U.S. House, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) championed bipartisan legislation that passed last year addressing this flawed management decision.

Our community depends on sound, science-based policies focused on conservation needs while ensuring public access to maintain and enhance recreational fishing opportunities. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are almost always a contentious subject in fisheries management.

In instances where traditional fisheries management are unsuccessful at sustaining a healthy fish population, MPAs can serve as an important tool.

MPAs do nothing to address the true challenges to our coral reefs, such as temperature rise, ocean acidification, pollution or invasive species. However, the success of well-planned MPAs in rebuilding certain fish stocks has fueled a movement to broadly promote MPAs as a panacea for the problems affecting the marine environment.

This has led to proposals, such as the Biscayne National Park marine reserve, that are based on an assumption that “MPAs work” while ignoring the factors that led to success or failure where MPAs have previously been implemented.

Proponents of the Biscayne Bay marine reserve often justify it by citing one that was established in 2007 in the Dry Tortugas. That reserve covers a large area, identified as an important spawning area for many species of snapper and grouper. As important, it was developed in close coordination with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and stakeholders. The Biscayne Bay marine reserve meets none of these criteria.

Kellie Ralston,

Florida Fisheries Policies Director,

American Sportfishing