Biscayne National Parks (BNP) new preferred alternative for its Draft General Management Plan (GMP) provides some relief for recreational anglers from the previous alternatives. In the past, CCA Florida has seen alternatives introduced by BNP that would close vast areas to fishing and boating enthusiasts. CCA Florida is relieved to see that the preferred alternative has removed the previous large, no fishing zones and reduced the size of the no motor zones. CCA Florida objected to these closures and believes that such closures should be seen as the last resort and not a starting point.
Alternative 6 establishes a Special Recreational Zone (SRZ) in place of the no fishing zone. Angler access to the SRZ will be by permit only and the plan will allow for 500 annual permits to be issued. Out of the 500 permits, 430 will be put into a lottery system for recreational anglers and 70 will be for licensed guides.
CCA Florida, while generally in support of alternative 6, offers several comments on the Alternative 6 SRZ. CCAF is concerned about the limited number of permits that will be issued and does not believe that all permits should be held as annual permits. The permit system should allow for temporary, perhaps daily permits for tourists and short term visitors along with a “use it or lose it” clause for any annual permit holders. CCA Florida believes that the prohibition on anchoring within the SRZ should be phased in as mooring buoys are installed, allowing permit holders real access. The SRZ must also allow transit privileges to anglers and Scuba divers that harvest east of the SRZ. The plan might also require the use of circle hooks while fishing for reef fish with live or dead bait, as is the case in state and federal waters.
CCA Florida is pleased that Alternative 6 has removed the large no fishing zones and no combustion engine zones. The removal of these areas shows BNP’s willingness to work with stake holders and help angler access within the park. But some modification to Alternative 6 is warranted.
NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT!
The public comment period ends on February 20, 2014. Your comments are important! Tell Park managers that you support CCA Florida’s position and urge it to adopt Alternative 6 but modify it to increase the number of permits, establish a short term permit program to allow tourists to use the Park and to phase in the prohibition on anchoring as mooring buoys are installed. https://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentForm.cfm?documentID=56275