You’re locked out.
What many consider to be Florida’s very best fishing area is now off limits even to family-level angling.
Closure of the western half of the Dry Tortugas National Park was finalized weeks ago by the Florida Cabinet, which found itself overwhelmed by a pile of highly suspect science and unfortunate speculation.
Only incoming Gov. Charlie Crist voted against the 47-square-mile lockout. That’s a welcome indication that Crist will continue to understand and respect interests of the angling public.
The no-fishing zone won approval from exiting Gov. Jeb Bush, Financial Officer Tom Gallagher and re-elected Ag Secretary Charles Bronson, basing their decision on a recommendation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which in turn had gotten the scheme from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Sadly, the state did not really understand that the closure area already has been closed to large-volume commercial catches and that fish populations there are super abundant, under no threat whatever.
But when “marine reserve” fever strikes, a cure is hard to find. Non-fishing folks easily fall for total-no-take proposals, needed or not.
A few months back, we ventured to the pristine waters off Loggerhead, wondering if what the Sanctuary biologists were claiming had any factual basis nowadays.
No, the fishing was as fast as ever. We doubt that the banning of personal-use angling will have the slightest effect on fish stocks. Instead, it will divert more anglers to the east, where fish often are abundant, though not as much so.
Meantime, ocean advocates continually show that they’re as confused as ever about fisheries management.
They fail to recognize the key difference between commercial fishing for the market and personal-use fishing under strict limits.
That mental disconnect tends to support the all-or-nothing idea, instead of stopping commercialization when it’s shown to be a cause of depletion while allowing recreational fishing, on an equal-for-all level.
One group even cites Teddy Roosevelt’s conservation and parks legacy as a reason to ban all fishing. Little do they seem to understand that Roosevelt was a champion of sportfishing and the parks that foster it.
So, we can expect the proposed lockouts to continue.