Marine Expansion

16 Nov 2006

This Tuesday Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his cabinet voted 3-1 in favor of expanding the state’s marine reserve, making it the largest in North America.

The plan will implement a ban on fishing in a 61-square-mile section of the Dry Tortugas National Park in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Straits. This Research Natural Area will be added to the Tortugas Ecological Reserve, where fishing has been illegal since 2001. The two areas will cover 261 square miles.

The management plan aims to aid the recovery of overfished species such as grouper and red snapper off Florida’s southwest coast. The protected area will also serve as a laboratory for scientific research and will provide recreational and educational opportunities for visitors.

“It’s good for the fish; it’s good for the ecosystem; it’s good for fishermen,” said University of Miami marine biologist Jerald Ault, who testified in support of the plan. The only dissenting vote was cast by Attorney General Charlie Crist, also Florida’s governor-elect. “I am reluctant to restrict a freedom from individual recreational fishermen and fisherwomen”.

The government included a clause in the plan that will restore fishing in the research area after five years without another vote.

Source: Associated Press

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