Preserving Fishing Access in Biscayne National Park
Located adjacent to Miami in Biscayne Bay, Biscayne National Park (BNP) is the largest marine park in the National Park system, supporting approximately 10 million angler trips per year. However, park officials have proposed to prohibit recreational fishing in large areas of the park by establishing marine reserves, contrary to the recommendations from stakeholders, the park’s own working group and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
BNP officials are currently updating the park's General Management Plan (GMP), which was last updated in 1983. In August 2011, park managers released a draft GMP for public comment. The draft GMP preferred alternative, endorsed by park managers, will establish a 16 square mile marine reserve, or no fishing zone. The GMP also considers the use of no-motor zones and an exclusive access-by-permit only area in shallow waters north of Black Point. The full draft GMP can be viewed here.
Controversy surrounding the onerous closures proposed in the draft GMP has prompted Congressional attention. In April 2012, the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held an oversight hearing regarding access issues on public lands, including at Biscayne National Park. In addition, members of the Florida delegation, including Senators Nelson and Rubio, have sent letters expressing concern with the potential negative impacts that the proposed closures in BNP can have on anglers and recreational fishing-dependent businesses.
In the summer of 2012, the National Park Service and the FWC agreed to reengage in a collaborative manner in the General Management Plan development process . KeepAmericaFishing™ is hopeful that discussions will result in a management plan that balances resource conservation with public access including adequate areas for fishing.
While intensive fishing pressure in BNP is clearly an issue that must be addressed in the new GMP, marine reserves are just one tool among the suite of resources available for effective fisheries management, and should be considered only after more conventional and less restrictive management strategies (e.g., size limits, bag limits, quotas, gear restrictions) have failed. The new GMP should address overfishing in BNP while still allowing for public access to public resources via recreational fishing. Given the widespread distribution of recreational fishing that occurs throughout BNP, any marine reserve of significant size would inevitably shut anglers out of favorite fishing areas, keeping anglers off the water, out of the park and diminishing the economic benefit of sportfishing to the local economy.
This concept is also supported by a Memorandum of Understanding between BNP and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which also manages fisheries resources in the park. The memorandum says:
"The FWC and the park agree to seek the least restrictive management actions necessary to fully achieve mutual management goals for the fishery resources of the park and adjoining areas. Furthermore, both parties recognize the FWC's belief that marine reserves (no-take areas) are overly restrictive and that less-restrictive management measures should be implemented during the duration of this MOU [Memorandum of Understanding]."
KeepAmericaFishing urges the Park Service to work cooperatively with the FWC – which believes there are other, less restrictive options that can meet management goals besides a marine reserve – and stakeholders to develop a plan that balances resource conservation with public access.