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Maritime Law: Save Florida Keys Fishing!!!

Since I was away for vacation earlier this month, I am now trying to play "blogging catch-up". Apologies to my regular readers if you begin receiving too much content at one time--I cannot control when Blogger disseminates my postings after they are published.

However, there is one very important development that has occurred while I was away and is near and dear to all of us that fish the beautiful waters of the Florida Keys. A reportedly "anti-fishing" group called Ecosystem Protection Working Group ("EPWG") have made recommendations to increase the areas of the Florida Keys that are protected from fishing. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary ("FKNMS") is already one of the largest marine protected areas ("MPAs") in the country. The FKNMS MPA currently measures approximately 496 million square yards of ocean and reef.

EPWG is recommending that authorities expand the MPA by another 310 million square yards of ocean and reef. This would effectively close fishing from the Marquesas past the reef, Sand Key and Rock Key Reefs, almost every reef south of Key West and the entire outer bar past Western Dry Rocks to Eastern Dry Rocks. If this expanded MPA is implemented, this would effectively "lock out" over 800 million square yards of ocean and reef to fishing.

 The EPWG map setting out the expanded MPA is provided below:
 
Map courtesy of Outdoor Alliance at http://outdoor-alliance.org/articles/petition-keys.

I have looked into this proposal by the EPWG and it would appear that the proposal is not backed up by scientific need determined by marine biologists. The article link above explains this in more detail and has helpful links to the copies of the various individual areas (Western Sambo, Tortugas, Carysfort Reef, Grassy Key, Conch Key, Sombrero Key, Tennessee Reef, Looe Key, Western Dry Rocks, Marquesas, Elbow Reef, Key Largo, Grecian Rocks, French Reef, Molasses Reef, Hen and Checkens (yes this is an area), Conch Reef, Davis Reef, Cheeca Rocks, Alligator Reef, Coffins Patch, Newfound Harbor, Eastern Dry Rocks, Rock Key, Sand Key, Snapper Ledge/Pickles Reef) proposed. You will see in the various charts provided by EPWG that the "justifications" listed to justify the expanded areas do not quote the scientific bases for these expanded MPAs. Thus, it can only be presumed that there is no scientific basis for these recommendations and this is merely an attempt to "grab" more MPA areas, to the detriment of the Florida Keys and those of us that love the Keys. I personally am willing to accept conservation, if there is science to back it up.

If you are interested in letting your voice be heard in this process, the Outdoor Alliance has provided a petition with a link. If you are interested in contacting me, you may do so at mov@chaloslaw.com

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