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Biscayne National Park drops fishing-ban proposal

Biscayne National Park dropped a controversial proposal to ban fishing across nearly 16 square miles of coral reef after vigorous opposition from anglers and members of Congress.

The park, which encompasses southern Biscayne Bay, had proposed a no-fishing zone to help coral reefs recover from decades of heavy fishing that had devastated snapper, grouper, lobster and other creatures that make their homes in the park's shallow, sunny waters, according to the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel.

The decision to drop the proposed ban was made public after a meeting earlier this month between representatives of the park and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the state agency that regulates hunting and fishing and that has usually opposed no-fishing zones as an infringement on the rights of the public.

Park superintendent Brian Carlstrom said a new plan will be released in detail in a few months. But in general, he said, it would use such tools as restrictions on the catch of certain species and limits on the number of anglers, rather than an outright ban.

"It's not going to restrict fishing altogether," he told the Sun-Sentinel. "But it's going to change how it's done to give the reef a better chance to recover."

Carlstrom said the abundance of wildlife on the reef is far below what you'd expect in a national park.

The 270-square-mile park was assembled in steps beginning in 1968, with Congress designating it a national park in 1980. The park is unique in that 95 percent of it is on water, encompassing sea grass beds, islands and coral reefs.

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