Thank you Capt. Rob Harris for putting this very informative piece together..
The upcoming Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Working Group meetings that will be held this week are in response to public input provided at the last round of Public Hearing/Comment.
You will note that FKNMS and NOAA have removed from on-line searches, the charts depicting the vast closures they were moving to vote on at the last Sanctuary Advisory Group meeting. I had intended to use those, as well as their justification comments, to better guide interested persons through the process and help suggest some direction for comments at the upcoming meetings.
Through the last month, I have been searching for information to share with you that could help guide you through the process as it directly relates to the proposed closures. I cannot find any reference to the past Working Group recommendations, and can only offer what I perceive to be the direction the Working Group is now taking, and how I believe they intend to get there.
These are only my thoughts and comments that I have derived through contacts and research. Whenever possible, I will include links and other pertinent information that you can use to form your own opinion.
Middle Keys Regional Input September 23, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Key Colony Beach City Hall
Upper Keys Regional Input September 24, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Hilton Key Largo Resort
Lower Keys Regional Input September 25, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Doubletree Grand Key Resort
Marquesas & Tortugas Regional Input September 26, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Doubletree Grand Key Resort
PURPOSE OF MEETINGS
To take public input regarding “what is” and “what is not working” as set forth by the goals and objects that were developed by the SAC. There is no directive, nor have I found ANY directive from NOAA, that was looking to close ANYTHING.
It was meant to find out what is working and what needed attention because it wasn’t meeting the goal of its intended purpose. As a resident living/fishing in the waters of the Florida Keys, I can only surmise that the charts that were presented before, with sweeping new closure areas, were developed by some form of special interest group(s) that had nothing to do with the intent of the objectives, as listed below…
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES of the MEETINGS
The Sanctuary Advisory Council has “developed two primary goals and several objectives for the marine zoning and regulatory review.”
They are listed on the FKNMS webpage at: http://floridakeys.noaa.gov/review/goals.html
A. To improve the diversity of natural biological communities in the Florida Keys to protect, and, where appropriate restore and enhance natural habitats, populations and ecological processes overall and in each of these sub regions Tortugas; Marquesas; Lower, Middle, and Upper Keys.
1. Reduce stresses from human activities by establishing areas that restrict access to sensitive wildlife populations and habitats.
2. Protect large, contiguous, diverse, and interconnected habitats that provide natural spawning, nursery, and permanent residence areas for the replenishment and genetic protection of marine life and protect and preserve all habitats and species.
3. Improve/maintain the condition of the biologically structured habitats including:
a. Coral Reef
i. Inshore Patch Reef
ii. Mid-Channel Patch Reef
iii. Offshore Patch Reef
iv. Reef Margin / Fore Reef
v. Deep Reef
b. Seagrass Bed
4. Increase abundance and condition of selected key species including corals, queen conch, long spined sea urchin, apex predatory fish, birds, and sea turtles.
B. To facilitate to the extent compatible with the primary objective of resource protection, all public and private uses of the resources of these marine areas not prohibited pursuant to other authorities.
1. Minimize conflicts among uses compatible with the national marine sanctuary.
2. Prevent heavy concentrations of uses that degrade sanctuary resources.
3. Provide undisturbed monitoring sites for research and control sites to help determine the effects of human activities.
4. Achieve a vibrant ecologically sustainable ecosystem and economy.
a. Apply the best available science and balanced, conservation-based management.
Printable version of the “Goals and Objectives for Marine Zoning Review,” as adopted by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council.
COMMENTS AT MEETINGS
Any discussion period offered at the meetings should be facilitated by those holding/conducting the meetings.
I caution you NOT to be led down a path of compromise/discussion that is not what you intend for it to be. There may be supporters of various interests present that may direct efforts to take you in a direction you did not intend with the main goal to have you take ownership of a compromise that isn’t even an issue. I have witnessed this before.
It could be as simple as, “Commenter A” saying, “I think we should close off area (fill in the blank) for (fill in the blank reason)”. If you don’t agree….don’t offer a compromised alternative, such as, “That area is really important because of (fill in the blank). There’s this area over here that you could close with less impact that I would support.”
n That will then be interpreted as you recommending the other closed area.
If you feel the existing FKNMS management areas are working…. Unless you have reason to believe that some changes to the existing ones could be beneficial, tell them that you believe that existing management are sufficient and no changes are required.
If you honestly believe that there are changes that need to be made, be prepared to support your belief.
Keep in mind that while FKNMS can/does make fishery related recommendations, those recommendations must go through the entire regulatory process which includes the State and Federal levels of Fisheries Management (NOAA, FWC, SAFMC and Gulf Council). State waters extend from shore to 3 miles, Federal Waters from 3-200 (3 miles to the US EEZ off Florida Keys and Bahamas areas).