May 19, 2016
It's urgent that fishing conservationists attend a special hearing on the federal government's proposal to shut down recreational angling in a third of the historic and productive reefs off Florida's southeast coast.
Anglers need to show up and protest against the closures or face the possibility of new no-fishing zones being imposed, even where no scientific research shows depletions of fish populations, according to many users.
The hearings run June 1st from 8:30 am to 10:30am and June 2nd 10:45am to 12pm at the Fern Forest Nature Center in northern Fort Lauderdale. You might bring along a fishing rod and landing net to show your interest. Here's a map and directions: http://ourfloridareefs.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/fern-forest-directions-and-map.pdf
Advance copy of Florida Sportsman's Opener's Column for the July issue
It started out as a harmless enough effort to protect reefs. Suddenly it's become one more of the biggest-ever attempts to ban fishing on a grand scale.
Ignoring the main public, a tiny coterie of federal government bureaucrats and basically anti-fishing zealots is determined to ban all fishing in a third of South Florida's most abundant and popular reefs.
“It's a severe ocean creep,” warns fishing conservationist Gary Jennings of the Keep Florida Fishing organization.
Jennings notes that a federal combine calling itself Our Florida Reefs is attempting to usurp state fish management policy instead of sticking to its stated focus on habitat issues.
It's interesting to note that the so-called reef initiative has zero support from the state's fishery management leaders, and yet the ban-fishing folks keep chugging along, as if the public favors locking out citizen anglers from reefs of the Biscayne National Park all the way north to St. Lucie Inlet at Stuart.
Fact is, 95 percent of persons polled are against the closure.
But the hearings and long-winded talk drags on.
What's worrisome to anglers and those who recognize the immense value of recreational fishing is that the decisions will be made by non-elected employees. Our public officials tend to ignore the situation while citizens may be told to go home.
Ironically, fish populations in the proposed lock-out zones have been shown to be stable and growing. There is no good science to show a need for the recreational closures.
Family-level fishing, largely catch and release, is desirable from all angles. It's certainly time for citizens to support the Keep Florida Fishing campaign and other groups protecting your right to fish responsibly.
Steadily improving management over three decades has produced good rules and eliminated most misguided attempts to preserve reckless commercial fishing for the few.
With your help, we can manage the fisheries for the most benefit of the most people, and for the fish stocks themselves.