After two decades of debate, Florida wildlife managers changed fishing regulations in Biscayne National Park. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved new rules Wednesday that recreational fishing advocates said will create a better balance between declining fish populations and preserving access to anglers.
“This is exactly what we’ve been asking for — sound fisheries management and conservation efforts run by the state in Biscayne National Park,” Center for Sportfishing Policy president Jeff Angers told Trade Only Today. “We’ve been fighting the federal bureaucracy’s push for an arbitrary no-fishing zone. We are thrilled with the outcome. The best-managed recreational fisheries in the world are in the state of Florida, so the FWC knows how to manage fish.”
The FWC and the National Park Service agreed that FWC would develop fishing regulations for the park with the goal of increasing the size and abundance of targeted species by at least 20 percent, according to FWC.
"The fisheries management plan developed cooperatively by FWC and the park not only avoids the implementation of a large-scale closure, it is a strong, science-based option that will improve abundance and size of important fish species within the park," Kellie Ralston, Southeast fisheries policy director at the American Sportfishing Association, told Trade Only Today. "This should enhance the fishing experience for anglers in one of the most iconic fishing destinations in the world."
A controversial proposal to close parts of the park to all fishing was omitted from the plan. The no-fishing zones have gained support from environmentalists and scientists, according to the Miami Herald.
FWC staff and commissioners decided that closing areas of the park to fishing is a measure of last resort that will only be considered if all other conservation efforts fail during the next five years — an approach that the fishing industry supported.
After that period, the regulations will be evaluated for effectiveness in achieving the goals of improving the average size and populations of targeted fish within the park by 20 percent and to conserve fishery habitats.
“FWC is committed to reviewing the effectiveness of these changes every five years to ensure we are not only meeting fishery management goals, but to continue determining what changes are effective to maintain this state as the fishing capital of the world,” said FWC chairman Robert Spottswood.
The new rules go into effect July 1 and include:
- Increasing the minimum size limit for several targeted species, including a variety of snapper species (gray, lane, mutton, schoolmaster and yellowtail); red grouper; two species of grunt (white and blue-striped); and gray triggerfish.
- Transiting through the park will be allowed while in possession of fish legally caught outside the park that do not meet the new park-specific size limits.
- Establishing a 10-fish-per-person aggregate harvest and possession limit for recreational harvest of select commonly targeted fish.
- Transiting through the park will not be aloo wed while in possession of more than the 10-fish-per-person aggregate.
- Establishing coral reef protection areas in the park Park where traps and lobstering would be prohibited year-round.
- Establishing a trap-free zone near park headquarters.
- Establishing inshore and offshore no-trawl zones within the park.