Hoping to avoid becoming “another California” (where recreational fishermen felt left out of a process that led to a vast crazyquilt of no-take areas closed to all angling), Florida Keys charter captains joined commercial fishermen to pack a meeting in Marathon recently, where they just said no.
That they did, according to Mike Leonard, Ocean Resource Policy Director for the American Sportfishing Association. The result: A planned vote on a proposal to create new and expand existing no-take areas throughout the Keys was tabled in favor of gathering more public input at meetings to be held throughout the Keys in coming weeks.
“Although our work here is far from over,” Leonard says, “this is a significant victory and demonstrates the impacts that our community can have when motivated and united.”
As noted, the recreational-fishing community tried to work within and as part of the system in California without much success. Apparently it proved more difficult for those directing the process in this Keys meeting to disregard the feelings of all fishermen who packed the room. All of their sentiments voiced on the expansion of no-take areas — which most fishermen had not seen previously — were unanimously opposed, particularly without more, local public hearings (held in the evenings when more working citizens might be able to attend).
Now those meetings will take place, and concerned recreational-fishing interests may have a chance to be heard before another proposal is drafted.
One way to keep up with developments on this as well as a host of other issues of concern to those of us passionate about the sport: Join Keep America Fishing. If you haven’t, you should.
The waters around the Keys already include several no-take areas. Let’s hope these historically and nationally important recreational-fishing waters don’t come to resemble the California coast when it comes to marine protected areas, shutting out weekend anglers and creating crowded fisheries that will hammer the limited areas still open to sport fishermen.