Press Releases

The Honorable Rick Scott
Office of the Governor
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399


Dear Governor Scott:
We, the undersigned, are making a formal complaint regarding the Our Florida Reefs Community Working Group (OFR) process that is developing recommendations for the management of the southeast Florida coral reef tract from Stuart to Key Biscayne. As Governor, we greatly appreciate your continued recognition of the value recreational fishing and boating brings to our State and the importance of sustainable resources and environmental responsibility. With this in mind, we have serious concerns that OFR’s recommendations relating to fishing restrictions and additional federal oversight over our state’s fisheries are not based on sound scientific principles and that the process used to generate those recommendations was significantly flawed. While OFR lacks regulatory authority, their recommendations will carry significant weight and will be used by outside entities and agencies to gain control of fisheries management in our own state waters.


Defined as a “community based planning process,” OFR is coordinated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Coral Reef Conservation Program and funded and facilitated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Conservation Program. The group has drafted recommendations and will hold its final meeting on June 1-2, 2016 to prioritize and determine rollout of their final report. Our specific concerns with this group are as follows:

 

  • OFR dismissed the opinions of more than 3,000 members of the public and the Florida Legislature who opposed their recommendations for National Marine Sanctuary and UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the entire area and for closing 20-30 percent of the reef tract to fishing through no-take Marine Protected Areas. These ignored comments represented more than 95 percent of the input submitted. There has been a general disregard for public input by OFR, as evidenced by their refusal to even consider removing recommendations that clearly lack public support, and an attitude that, as members of OFR, they are the community rather than representatives of the greater community.

  • NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program has greatly influenced OFR’s recommendations through its facilitation, participation and funding of the process and has strongly advocated for recommendations related to fishing closures and additional federal oversight in state waters. In addition, NOAA representatives provided extensive input on fisheries issues to the group, though none were NOAA fisheries managers.

  • Educational presentations to OFR were heavily biased towards fishing closures, driving fishing interests away from the table. Thus, OFR alienated fishing community and industry participants throughout the process and never sought to re-engage these important stakeholders.

  • OFR lacks credible scientific evidence indicating that there are any fisheries problems that need to be addressed in the area, and the group has completely disregarded the sound, science-based opinions of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), an agency recognized worldwide as a leader in fisheries management.

 

We recognize there are significant issues affecting the coral reef tract in southeast Florida. Water quality, temperature, acidification and sedimentation from beach re-nourishment and construction are all contributing factors to the decline of our reefs and require immediate attention. We appreciate the OFR recommendations directed towards these problems. However, overfishing has been linked to coral reef declines only in areas of the world without the extensive fishing regulations and management that we have in Florida. To be clear, we do support the closure of areas to fishing when it is proven that recreational fishing poses a clear threat to sustainable fisheries, but only after all other management options have been exhausted and when the area will undergo continued monitoring to determine the effectiveness of the closure.


We stand appalled and concerned that the will of the vast majority of the public and the opinions of the Legislature and the state agency that ably manages our fisheries have been blatantly ignored by this group in favor of the advancement of other agendas. We ask for your strong and swift attention to this issue, in cooperation with DEP and FWC, and also ask that you empower these agencies to consider the failings of the OFR process as they consider the finalized recommendations of the group.


Recreational fishing is an important industry in Florida, generating more than $9.3 billion in economic activity and supporting more than 123,000 jobs. The continued success of our industry relies on clean waters, abundant fisheries and access to both, and we are actively involved in maintaining and achieving these goals. In fact, each year more than 3 million resident and visiting anglers support fisheries management in Florida by contributing $46.5 million through license fees, excise taxes on fishing gear and special taxes on motor boat fuel.


We greatly value what the good agencies of the State are doing to preserve our natural resources and to keep Florida the Fishing Capital of the World. We look forward to your prompt attention to this matter as OFR finalizes its recommendations and would be pleased to provide any additional information you may require.

 

Sincerely,

American Sportfishing Association
Kellie Ralston
Florida Fisheries Policy Director

 

Keep America Fishing
Liz Ogilvie
Director

 

Keep Florida Fishing
Gary Jennings
Manager

 

Coastal Conservation Association Florida
Jeff Miller
Government Relations Committee Chair

 

International Game Fish Association
Jason Schratwieser
Conservation Director

 

Marine Industry Association Palm Beach
Chuck Collins
Executive Director

 

West Palm Beach Fishing Club
Tom Twyford
President

 

Snook & Gamefish Foundation
Brett Fitzgerald
Executive Director

 

National Marine Manufacturers Association
Thom Dammrich
President

 

Standing Watch
Captain Jim Calvin
Chairman

 

Florida Guides Association
Captain Charlie Phillips
President

 

Boat US
Margaret Podlich
President

 

Marine Industry Association Florida
John Sprague
Director of Government Affairs

 

Fishing Rights Alliance
Dennis O’Hearn
Executive Director

 

Marine Industry Association Treasure Coast
April Price
President

 

Spearboard.com
Tony Grogan
Administrator

 

Port Salerno Fishing Dock Authority
Butch Olson
President

 

 
cc: Kim McDougal, Chief of Staff, EOG
Brad Piepenbrink, Deputy Chief of Staff, EOG
Karl Rasmussen, Deputy Chief of Staff, EOG
Nick Wiley, Executive Director, FWC
Jon Steverson, Secretary, DEP
Russ Dunn, National Policy Advisor for
Recreational Fisheries, NOAA
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