Coming Soon: Biscayne Marine Reserve?

Biscayne Alternative 4

Biscayne Alternative 4

Biscayne National Park is on the verge of closing seven percent of its waters to recreational anglers. And you’ve got less than 30 days to let park officials know how you feel about it.

That's right, the park is weighing five potential alternatives that would manage the park for the next 20 years. These alternatives range from a "no-change" option to a highly restrictive management structure. BNP's "preferred" alternative (No. 4, see image), selected based on public comments and "a lot of science," according to park superintendent Mark Lewis, would create, among other things, a 10,522-acre, "no-take marine reserve," numerous "nature observation zones" and "non-combustion engine use zones" — as well as the construction of a waterfront visitor center near downtown Miami.

The marine reserve acreage alone equates to seven percent of the park’s waters, which would become strictly off limits to recreational fishing. Yet, the park could potentially conduct tours in this area from the comfort of its new waterfront base of operations.

I have a simple question: Is this “preferred alternative” in the best interests of the local economy? Will it help the hard-working residents of South Florida who make their living from the sea and marine resources? Or is it purely a revenue play for the National Park Service (a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior), in which already-beleaguered tourists would be charged to simply go out on the water and experience the natural side of Florida.

Hey, tourists — here’s my advice to you: If this proposed visitor’s center goes through, do yourself a favor. Hire a local, reputable guide instead, and experience the park firsthand from the real stewards and conservationists who make their living here, and have done so for decades. Not some government official.

Of course, this is not a done deal yet. A public-comment period is open until Oct. 31, 2011. But don't bother sending emails or telephone comments — they are not valid commenting tools, according to the park. Instead, you may comment by clicking here or by mailing a letter to the following address:

General Management Plan
Biscayne National Park
9700 S.W. 328th Street
Homestead, FL 33033-5634

I encourage you to let the park know that this proposed marine reserve is NOT in the best interests of the local economy and local residents and will do very little to protect the reef and marine ecosystems.

To see the full scope of the park's plan, download the draft general management plan here. Don't worry, it's only 344 pages long; it shouldn't take you too long to read.

Fish well — and please support local economies,

Mike Mazur
Senior editor, Sport Fishing magazine