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Good News, but*

Keep that asterisk handy, though there seem to be at least two happy developments in the government's ever- lasting deliberations about new fisheries regulations for Biscayne National Park.

First, that 10,000-acre total-no-take zone proposed for Park waters east of Miami has been deep sixed, probably for good.

Second, a ban on combustion motors previously planned in many areas has been replaced with a concept for less onerous slow zones.

The welcome changes are part of a new set of alternatives devised by the National Park Service.

Previously, we've wailed against the lockout of family-level recreational fishing as well as the suggested network of “creep zones” where not even putt-putt movement would be allowed. Other angler- oriented groups including Coastal Conservation Association Florida joined the fray and we commend them for strong advocacy.

A final Fishery Management Plan is likely to be enacted in 2014, though it's been years in the making.

Meanwhile, all of us should pay close attention and take part as details emerge. Here's the NPS summary of its “preferred alternative”:

“This alternative proposes to increase the abundance and average size of fishery-targeted species within the Park by at least 20% over existing conditions, as well as reduce fishing-related habitat impacts. Possible management actions to achieve substantial improvement of fisheries resources could include considerable increases in minimum size limits, designation of slot limits, substantial decreases in bag limits, and seasonal and/or spatial closures. Under Alternative 4, lobster mini-season would be eliminated in the Park and regulations would be enacted to prohibit the use of an air supply or gear with a trigger mechanism while spearfish- ing. Numbers of commercial fishers would decrease over time via establishment of a non-transferable permit system. The Park would require a recreational use permit for all boats engaged in any recreational activity in the Park.”

You'll note that those provisions include a most-welcome phase-out of commercial fishing. A similar phase-out, now mostly forgotten, was done in the early ‘80s in the Everglades National Park.

So with asterisk in hand, dig into the planning as the year moves on.

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