Groups report progress in Biscayne Bay talks

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A coalition of national boating and fishing organizations sent a letter to legislators expressing appreciation for recent steps toward developing a general management plan for Florida’s Biscayne National Park, but reiterated concerns about the potential to unnecessarily close large areas of the park to the public.

The coalition, composed of the American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said in a statement Thursday it is optimistic that a positive outcome is possible, based on recent and ongoing discussions between the National Park Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in an effort to resolve differences and develop joint solutions for the park’s management plan.

Recently, the National Park Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released a joint statement that said the agencies have made progress in resolving differences and developing joint solutions to the dispute.

In August 2011, Biscayne National Park officials released a draft management plan that proposed to close as much as 20 percent of the park’s waters to fishing. The park’s preferred alternative included a 10,000-acre marine reserve, or no-fishing zone, despite recommendations from stakeholders and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that a marine reserve is overly restrictive.

“The coalition fully supports the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s longstanding position that less-restrictive management measures should be implemented in the park,” the coalition statement read.

“As representatives of America’s leading recreational fishing and boating organizations, we are highly interested in the management of Biscayne National Park, one of the country's largest urban recreational fishing and boating areas. Biscayne National Park is a jewel in the national park system and helps support Florida’s $19 billion recreational fishing and boating economy and the associated 250,000 jobs,” the coalition said in its letter.

This summer the National Park Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission agreed to re-engage in the General Management Plan development process.

The coalition hopes that discussions between the National Park Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will result in a management plan that balances resource conservation with public access, including adequate areas for fishing. However, the coalition is concerned that the recent statement indicates that a marine reserve zone remains in consideration as a possible management activity, which would create excessive and unnecessary fishing and water access restrictions.

Click here for the full National Park Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission release.

Click here for the full coalition release.

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