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Latest Updates: Public Policy and Environmental Matters
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Latest Environmental Issue News from DEMA

DIVING INDUSTRY ALERT - YOUR ACTION IS NEEDED!Open in a New Window

Many have seen a disturbing video recently posted on YouTube by Florida fishermen showing a live shark, tied by the tail and being dragged at a high rate of speed behind a boat, resulting in the shark's death. The video was picked up and posted online by USA Today. 

This photo shows the shark's remains following this cruel act.
This is a cruel treatment of any animal, and members of the diving community are appalled by such behavior by members of the fishing public, who must be licensed to fish in Florida waters by Florida's Fish and Wildlife Commission. 

As an apex predator, sharks are necessary to maintaining the health of Florida reefs. Divers are excited to encounter living sharks and many seek opportunities to dive and observe these creatures. Doing so has been shown to engender the need to protect them, especially from shark finning (killing the shark by removing its fins and dumping it back in the ocean alive), but also from cruelty of the kind depicted in this video. 

While fishing for most species of sharks is not prohibited in Florida, treating any animal in the manner depicted in the online video is unsettling and could be illegal. The video has rightfully generated a backlash against these persons, but more is needed. According to the Pensacola News Journal, Governor Rick Scott of Florida has correctly called for state wildlife officials to review regulations after seeing this "hateful act" in which the shark is dragged at high speeds through Florida waters. A photo of the shark's remains following this cruel act is shown here. 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) is the agency charged with regulating the fishing community. DEMA encourages all members of the diving community, regardless of geographic location to contact the FWC and demand that these individuals be stopped from this type of activity. In addition, we strongly suggest contacting members of Florida's Senate and House of Representatives, who were intimately involved with passing the recent shark fin legislation there. Finally, we suggest sending a message directly to Florida's Governor, Rick Scott. All contacts for these individuals are listed below: 

Nick Wiley
Executive Director,Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
Nick.Wiley@MyFWC.com
Colonel Curtis Brown
Director of the FWC Division of Law Enforcement
Curtis.Brown@myfwc.com


Representative Alex Miller
Alex.Miller@myfloridahouse.gov

Rep. Miller's Legislative Assistants:
Josh Barnhill: 
Josh.Barnhill@myfloridahouse.gov
Susan Neaves: 
Susan.Neaves@myfloridahouse.gov
Senator Travis Hutson
Hutson.Travis@flsenate.gov

Sen. Hutson's Legislative Assistants:
Danielle Curbow: Curbow.Danielle@flsenate.gov
John Kotyk: 
Kotyk.John@flsenate.gov
Matthew Kauffmann: Kauffmann.Matthew@flsenate.gov


Governor Rick Scott
Rick.Scott@eog.myflorida.com



For your comments we have provided some suggested text below. Please contact DEMA at 858-616-6408 or publicpolicy@dema.org with any questions regarding this issue.
 
Suggested text:

Dear Mr. Wiley:
e are enraged by the behavior of several fishers who caught and brutalized a shark by towing it at a high rate of speed behind their boat. We request that you do everything within the limits of the law to prohibit this kind of behavior in the future, including punishing these specific individuals by suspending their Florida fishing privileges.

 

DEMA Submits Comments in Favor of National Marine Sanctuaries and MonumentsOpen in a New Window

In late June, the current administration issued an Executive Order to review National Marine Sanctuaries and Monuments created or expanded within the last 10-years (EO 13795 and Federal Register dated June 26, 2017). DEMA appreciates the need to review the specified National Marine Sanctuaries and Monuments and hopes that such a review will result in a clearer understanding of the need for on-going scientific analysis of natural and cultural resources in these designated areas, as well as the need for utilizing the established administrative procedures for creating such a Sanctuary.  DEMA has submitted comments in favor of Marine Sanctuaries and their importance to the diving industry. 

 

DEMA Legislative Alert and Opinion Poll – Goliath Grouper in FloridaOpen in a New Window

UPDATE, 7/17/17: Deadline to complete the survey has been extended to 4:00 pm Eastern Time, Friday, July 21, 2017.

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You may be aware that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has scheduled a series of workshops to discuss the management of goliath grouper stocks in Florida.  The workshop dates and locations can be found at this link to the FWC website

The FWC has indicated it will entertain the possibility of a limited harvest in Florida state waters 

Given the continued scientific uncertainty regarding the recovery of goliath grouper populations, DEMA favors the continuation of the current moratorium on harvest of this species, as we have since 2011.  However, we do believe it is important to capture the opinions of all diving stakeholders on this issue.

We are asking you to please complete a brief opinion survey regarding the continuation of the moratorium, by 4:00pm Eastern Time, Thursday, July 13, 2017. 

TAKE THE SURVEY

This data will be helpful for assisting the FWC in constructing their goliath grouper management plans.  DEMA will submit the results of the survey to FWC prior to their workshops.

 

UPDATE: Shark Fin Sales Bill Gains Additional Sponsors Thanks to YOU!Open in a New Window

SUMMARY: 
On May 1st, DEMA asked the industry for its support in contacting government legislators to vote for the passage of the federal "Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2017" (HR 1456). Over 170 members of the dive industry have already joined DEMA's campaign and contacted their elected representatives in Congress and an additional seven Representatives have signed on to sponsor the passage of the bill, bringing the current number of total cosponsors to 113. 

TAKE ACTION:
DEMA asks all members of the diving industry to contact your legislators to vote for the passage of this important piece of legislation.  You can easily do so by joining DEMA’s campaign to support HR 1456 by clicking here.  When you complete the campaign form, your comments will be sent directly to your representative.

 

Editor's note: This story was originally published June 19, 2017. The update provided directly below reflects the current number of total cosponsors.

UPDATE, 12/12/17: 220 cosponsors have signed on to sponsor the passage of the bill.

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On May 1st, DEMA asked the industry for its support in contacting government legislators to vote for the passage of the federal "Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2017" (HR 1456); a bill which would make it illegal to possess, buy, or sell shark fins or any product containing shark fins. 

Over 170 members of the dive industry have already joined DEMA's campaign and contacted their elected representatives in Congress. By sharing how this bill could protect the shark population as well as how YOUR business and the recreational diving industry are made stronger by divers' opportunity to see these creatures in the wild, you have made a difference! 

Since DEMA's campaign launched, an additional seven Representatives have signed on to sponsor the passage of the bill, bringing the current number of total cosponsors to 113. 

We appreciate your support in the passage of this bill and ask all members of the diving industry to join us in contacting your legislators to vote for the passage of this important piece of legislation. You can do so easily NOW by clicking here. When you complete the campaign form, your comments will be sent directly to your representative. 

If you receive a reply from your Representative or Senator, please let us know! DEMA will continue to work toward supporting this bill and share updates as they become available. If you have questions about this issue, please email DEMA at publicpolicy@dema.org or contact us at 858-616-6408.

 

The Paris Climate Accord: DEMA Asks You to Contact Your Elected Officials!Open in a New Window

SUMMARY: 
On June 1, the United States withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, a voluntary agreement outlining potentially significant criteria for participation and compliance with the 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Recreational diving businesses and countries that thrive on recreational diving are increasingly adopting policies and practices aimed at preserving, protecting and enhancing the environment. The recreational diving industry MUST have a healthy diving environment, or there is no diving business.  

TAKE ACTION:
DEMA strongly urges all members of the diving industry to read the Paris Climate Accord as presented by the UN Convention, and to contact your elected representatives in Congress to share how the recent change in US policy could affect your company’s and the Industry’s bottom line.  Your message to your Representative and Senator should be personalized and we encourage you to add details about the work of your organization and how this change would impact your company and the citizens you serve. TAKE ACTION by clicking here.  

 

On June 1, the United States withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, a voluntary agreement outlining potentially significant criteria for participation and compliance with the 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Though less than a treaty, and not ratified by the US Congress, the US signed the Accord in 2016, as one of 148 other signing countries among the 197-country United Nations Convention.  If all countries complied with this Agreement, many believe that greenhouse gasses, thought to be contributing to climate change, could be reduced.

Recreational diving businesses and countries that thrive on recreational diving are increasingly adopting policies and practices aimed at preserving, protecting and enhancing the environment. In every corner of the world, having a clean and healthy diving environment is critical to the success of the recreational diving industry.  On Tuesday, June 6th Hawaii became the first state in the nation to enact portions of the Paris Climate Accord into law, with Gov. David Ige signing Senate Bill 559. The bill will document sea level rise and set strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

DEMA has long supported an approach to government regulation that balances the health of the aquatic environment with maintaining access to dive sites and minimizing unnecessary regulatory burdens on business.  It should be clear to all that the recreational diving industry MUST have a healthy diving environment, or there is no diving business.

DEMA strongly urges all members of the diving industry to read the Paris Climate Accord as presented by the UN Convention, and to contact your elected representatives in Congress to share how the recent change in US policy could affect your company’s and the Industry’s bottom line.  Your message to your Representative and Senator should be personalized and we encourage you to add details about the work of your organization and how this change would impact your company and the citizens you serve.  Your voice is important so that the diving industry can maintain unfettered access to dive sites and keep regulatory burdens to a minimum while sustaining a clean and healthy diving environment.

You can TAKE ACTION by clicking here.

 

YOUR ACTION IS NEEDED: Support the Shark Fin Sales Elimination ActOpen in a New Window

SUMMARY: 
In March, the federal "Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2017" (HR 1456) was introduced in the US House of Representatives. This bill makes it illegal to possess, buy, or sell shark fins or any product containing shark fins.

TAKE ACTION:
DEMA is supporting this bill and asks all members of the diving industry to join us in contacting your legislators to vote for the passage of this important piece of legislation.  You can easily do so by joining DEMA’s campaign to support HR 1456 by clicking here.  When you complete the campaign form, your comments will be sent directly to your representative.

 

In March the federal “Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2017” (HR 1456) was introduced in the US House of Representatives by Mr. Ed Royce of California (R-CA), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and by Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (I-MP).

This bill makes it illegal to possess, buy, or sell shark fins or any product containing shark fins. A person may possess a shark fin that was lawfully taken consistent with a license or permit under certain circumstances.  Penalties are imposed for violations under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Chair Royce has stated that, “The United States can set an example for the rest of the world by shutting down its market for shark fins, which are often harvested by leaving these animals to die a slow and painful death at the bottom of the ocean. There are still 39 states where the purchase of shark fins is legal. The bipartisan Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act is needed to eradicate shark finning for good.”

The demand for fins, the key ingredient in shark fin soup, is one of the greatest threats facing shark populations around the world. Fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up in the global market every year, and more than 70 percent of the most common shark species involved with the fin trade are considered at high or very high risk of extinction. While shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, shark fins continue to be bought and sold throughout the U.S.  The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act curbs the market for shark fins by making it unlawful to possess, sell or buy fins anywhere in the US.

We strongly urge you to contact your elected representatives in Congress and share how this bill could protect the shark population as well as how your business and the recreational diving industry are made stronger by divers’ ability to see these creatures in the wild.  Your message to your elected officials should be personalized and we encourage you to add details about the work of your organization and how this bill would impact your company and the citizens you serve. 

DEMA is supporting this bill and asks all members of the diving industry to join us in contacting your legislators to vote for the passage of this important piece of legislation.  You can easily do so by joining DEMA’s campaign to support HR 1456 by clicking here.  When you complete the campaign form, your comments will be sent directly to your representative.

If you are able to contact your Representative or Senator, and receive any kind of feedback, please let us know right away.  DEMA will continue to work toward supporting this bill and share updates on this issue as they become available. If you have questions about this issue, please email DEMA at publicpolicy@dema.org or contact us at 858-616-6408.  

 

YOUR COMMENTS AND HELP ARE NEEDED: Submit Comments Regarding Port Everglades Dredging ProjectOpen in a New Window

SUMMARY:
In the wake of the Port Everglades dredging delay, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is encouraging the public to provide input as part of an updated analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the Port Everglades navigation improvements project. 

TAKE ACTION:
DEMA asks that all members of the diving community attend one of the below scoping meetings, or submit written comments in favor of the new study, citing the value of the reefs to divers, diving businesses and the entire community, and including data on the need to protect the living coral reef.

The Corps’ Jacksonville District and Port Everglades will host two scoping meetings on February 22 at 2:00 p.m.and again at 6:00 p.m.. See complete meeting details below.

Members of the Diving Community unable to attend a meeting can send comments directly to terri.jordan-sellers@usace.army.mil or:
Jacksonville District Corps of Engineers
Attn: Planning Division - Terri Jordan Sellers
701 San Marco Boulevard Jacksonville, FL 32207-8175

 

In the wake of the Port Everglades dredging delay, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is encouraging the public to provide input as part of an updated analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the Port Everglades navigation improvements project. These meetings come in part because the Corps has delayed the start of the dredging project until a new environmental study is completed.  The new environmental study is being conducted as a response to a federal lawsuit filed by DEMA, along with several environmental organizations, requesting the new environmental studies be completed before the planned dredging project to expand Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, FL commences. 

 

 An open comment period started in late September and will end March 24, 2017.

The Corps’ Jacksonville District and Port Everglades will host two scoping meetings:

·        February 22 at 2:00 p.m.
·        February 22 at 6:00 p.m.

Both meetings will take plan in Hall B, rooms 113/114 at the Broward County Convention Center 1950 Eisenhower Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, FL. 33316. Sign-in and poster sessions start at 2 and 6 p.m., with presentations at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. respectively, followed by a question and comment period. The Corps will share new information and address all submitted written comments in a draft supplemental NEPA document.

DEMA asks that all members of the diving community attend one of these scoping meetings, or submit written comments in favor of the new study, citing the value of the reefs to divers, diving businesses and the entire community, and including data on the need to protect the living coral reef.

Members of the Diving Community unable to attend a meeting can send comments directly to terri.jordan-sellers@usace.army.mil or:
Jacksonville District Corps of Engineers
Attn: Planning Division - Terri Jordan Sellers
701 San Marco Boulevard Jacksonville, FL 32207-8175

Your comments should be copied to publicpolicy@dema.org. DEMA will also submit written comments directly to the Corps.

All Port Everglades documents are located at http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Navigation/Navigation-Projects/Port-Everglades/.

The Corps has agreed to reassess its Port Everglades environmental analysis because of new environmental information available about the widespread and unanticipated damage incurred during a similar dredging project at nearby PortMiami and new, local coral species recently added to the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) list.

In Miami, the dredging proved disastrous for the coral reefs in the area. For the PortMiami project, the Corps had assumed there would be minimal impacts to coral, but instead fine-grained sediment from the project harmed tens of thousands of coral colonies and over 250 acres of reef designated as “critical habitat” for the ESA-listed staghorn corals. The National Marine Fisheries Service assessed the area and determined that 95% of the surveyed reef is no longer suitable habitat for corals, and some of the damaged reef will never recover naturally.

The Port Everglades dredging, which was planned to begin in 2017, is now expected to be on hold until at least 2019 while the new environmental analyses are conducted.

 

Port Everglades Expansion Dredging DelayedOpen in a New Window

** Corps Commits to Conduct New Environmental Studies Before Port Everglades Expansion Dredging Begins **

SUMMARY:
In response to a federal lawsuit filed by DEMA, along with several environmental organizations, the US Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to conduct new environmental studies before starting its planned dredging project to expand Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. DEMA and the additional environmental organizations, filed suit in federal court in Southern Florida in August, 2016 seeking protections for coral reefs in the Fort Lauderdale area. The corals in and around Port Everglades are threatened by the proposed port expansion project which was initiated to make way for larger, Panama-canal sized vessels.

TAKE ACTION:

  • Plan to attend a public meeting:
    The Corps will hold two public meetings to explore the scope of the project. The meetings are at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Feb. 22 at Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, 33316. Public presentations are scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., with a Q&A period to follow. Please contact Terri Jordan-Sellers at (904) 232-1817 or at Terri.Jordan-Sellers@usace.army.mil with questions.

 


In response to a federal lawsuit filed by DEMA, along with several environmental organizations, the US Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to conduct new environmental studies before starting its planned dredging project to expand Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  DEMA and the additional environmental organizations, filed suit in federal court in Southern Florida in August, 2016 seeking protections for coral reefs in the Fort Lauderdale area. The corals in and around Port Everglades are threatened by the proposed port expansion project which was initiated to make way for larger, Panama-canal sized vessels. 

While the Corps conducts new studies, plaintiffs, DEMA and a group of environmental organizations have agreed to put a temporary hold on their federal Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act lawsuit over the planned dredging. The Corps’ dredging plan failed to account for damage to nearby, fragile coral reefs.

The Corps has agreed to reassess its Port Everglades environmental analysis because of new environmental information available about the widespread and unanticipated damage incurred during a similar dredging project at nearby PortMiami and new, local coral species recently added to the federal Endangered Species Act list.

In Miami, the dredging proved disastrous for the coral reefs in the area. For the PortMiami project, the Corps had assumed there would be minimal impacts to coral, but instead fine-grained sediment from the project harmed tens of thousands of coral colonies and over 250 acres of reef designated as “critical habitat” for the ESA-listed staghorn corals. The National Marine Fisheries Service assessed the area and determined that 95% of the surveyed reef is no longer suitable habitat for corals, and some of the damaged reef will never recover naturally.

“The devastating coral damage discovered after the PortMiami dredging gives us all pause. It is a good reason for the Corps to go back to the drawing board and learn from its mistakes in Miami,” said Brettny Hardy, an attorney at Earthjustice, lawyers for plaintiffs in the case. “Under the law, a proper analysis must be done before further taxpayer dollars are spent on this potentially devastating project.”

The Port Everglades dredging, which was planned to begin in 2017, is now expected to be on hold until at least 2019 while the new environmental analyses are conducted.

“The Corps’ and NMFS’ prior environmental analyses simply ignored evidence from PortMiami that showed estimated impacts from dredging near corals are significantly more harmful and widespread than expected.” said Rachel Silverstein, executive director and waterkeeper of Miami Waterkeeper. “The current environmental statements do not reflect ‘best available science’, which is the legal standard for agency decision-making, and therefore, they must be redone.”

“Coral and coastal Floridians will benefit from the Corps pumping the brakes on this massive project,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We have to learn from our mistakes and do what’s right for our irreplaceable coastal resources.”

“We will remain vigilant as this process moves forward to ensure full compliance with the law and protection of our irreplaceable coral reefs,” said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation.


Each year, snorkeling and scuba diving in Florida account for almost 9 million visitor-days, create almost 30,000 full-time equivalent tourism-related jobs, and contribute hundreds of millions of dollars directly to the Florida economy.

“The reefs provide huge environmental and economic benefits to South Florida. This is a positive step for the entire recreational diving community, especially in Fort Lauderdale, which depends upon a healthy reef environment” said Tom Ingram, President and CEO of DEMA. “DEMA is determined to help protect the natural reef from destruction so that many generations to come can continue to enjoy the opportunity to see, first-hand, this unique and precious natural resource.”

Earthjustice is representing Miami Waterkeeper, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Florida Wildlife Federation, and the Diving Equipment and Manufacturing Association (DEMA). Jim Porter of James M. Porter, P.A. is representing Miami Waterkeeper. Bob Harris of Messer Caparello, P.A is representing DEMA in the lawsuit.

The Corps will hold two public meetings to explore the scope of the project. The meetings are at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Feb. 22 at Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, 33316. Public presentations are scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., with a Q&A period to follow. Anyone with questions about the meetings should contact Terri Jordan-Sellers at (904) 232-1817 or at Terri.Jordan-Sellers@usace.army.mil.

 

 

INDUSTRY ALERT: Shark Feeding BanOpen in a New Window

-YOUR HELP IS NEEDED- 
Shark Feeding Ban

 

SUMMARY:
Bill S. 3099 – the “Access for Sportfishing Act of 2016” – contains a provision which, if enacted, would prohibit feeding sharks for any purpose other than harvesting them, and would become the law in all federal waters around the U.S. The bill unnecessarily eliminates the opportunity for thousands of divers each year to actively and safely engage in observing sharks and prevents divers from gaining a better understanding of this creature. By prohibiting shark feeding for essentially all purposes except harvesting them (killing the sharks), the bill will have a detrimental impact on consumers and on the shark population in the US, and will adversely impact businesses that serve the recreational diving industry, including dive operators, vessels used to transport customers to diving locations, hotels, restaurants and transportation services. DEMA is advising all dive businesses to express their concerns to the appropriate members of Congress and share how this bill could affect your business and the citizens you serve.

TAKE ACTION:

  • Please contact your US Representative or US Senator and share how this bill could affect your company’s and the Industry’s bottom line.

 

Earlier this year bill S. 3099 – the “Access for Sportfishing Act of 2016” – was introduced in the US Senate by Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R) both of Florida.  The bill contains a provision which, if enacted, would prohibit feeding sharks for any purpose other than harvesting them, and would become the law in all federal waters around the U.S.

 

DEMA is actively opposing this bill.  The premise on which this bill is based – the concept that “provisioning ecotourism” (introducing small amounts of food in the water to interest sharks for the purpose of observation) - somehow “conditions” sharks to associate swimmers, divers and even kayakers with food – is erroneous.

 

The bill unnecessarily eliminates the opportunity for thousands of divers each year to actively and safely engage in observing sharks and prevents divers from gaining a better understanding of this creature.  Research by independent and credible scientists indicates that provisioning ecotourism does NOT create an increased risk for non-divers and swimmers not directly engaged in provisioning ecotourism activities. 

 

By prohibiting shark feeding for essentially all purposes except harvesting them (killing the sharks), the bill will have a detrimental impact on consumers and on the shark population in the US, and will adversely impact businesses that serve the recreational diving industry, including dive operators, vessels used to transport customers to diving locations, hotels, restaurants and transportation services.  The economic effect will be most easily observed in coastal states, but this bill will also have negative effects on dive operators selling travel to any US state or territory where a consumer could otherwise participate in a shark diving experience.

 

As is suggested by researchers in the 2015 study published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, a better approach than is found in S. 3099 is to implement safe marine interaction practices.  Many years ago a group of leading experts in the industry, the Global Interactive Marine Experiences Council (GIMEC), which included operators and scientists, developed safe interactive practices, many of which are incorporated into the experiences used by operators in the US today.  Use of the GIMEC Guidelines would be a better alternative to banning provisioning ecotourism, and not denying thousands of US citizens the opportunity to participate in a marine experience that changes the lives of both the citizen and the shark.

 

DEMA has already submitted comments opposing the bill to Mr. Rubio and Mr. Nelson on behalf of the Industry, including the GIMEC Guidelines.  The comments can be found here

 

We strongly urge you to contact your elected representatives in Congress and share how this bill could affect your company’s and the Industry’s bottom line.  Even though there is currently not a House version of the bill, this language can be added on nearly any bill by Congress at any time.  Your message to your Representative and Senator should be personalized and we encourage you to add details about the work of your organization and how this bill would impact your company and the citizens you serve. 

 

You can find your US Representative by clicking here and entering your Zip Code.

 

You can find your US Senator by clicking here and entering your state.

 

The following text may help guide you:

 

DEMA believes that the shark feeding ban contained in Senate Bill 3099 unnecessarily eliminates the opportunity for thousands of divers each year to actively and safely engage in observing sharks and in gaining a better understanding of this creature.  Research by independent and credible scientists indicates that provisioning ecotourism does NOT create an increased risk for non-divers and swimmers who are not directly engaged in provisioning ecotourism activities.  This bill will have a detrimental economic impact on US coastal areas and islands and will unnecessarily damage the US Recreational Diving Industry.

 

If you are able to contact your Representative or Senator, and receive any kind of feedback, please let us know right away.  DEMA will continue to work toward opposing this bill and share updates on this issue as they become available. If you have questions about this issue, please email DEMA at publicpolicy@dema.org or contact us at 858-616-6408.  

 

 

Port Everglades Project Would Repeat the Environmental Destruction Caused by PortMiami DredgingOpen in a New Window

** DEMA and Environmental Organizations Challenge Massive Dredging Project to Try to Save Threatened Corals **

 

The Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA), along with a group of environmental organizations, filed suit in federal court today in Southern Florida to seek protections for coral reefs in Fort Lauderdale. The corals in and around Port Everglades are threatened by a proposed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredging and port expansion project to make way for larger, Panama-canal sized vessels.

 

Port Everglades is about 30 miles north of the Port of Miami (PortMiami), where the Corps recently deepened and widened the Miami Harbor Channel, a project that proved disastrous for the coral reef in the area. For the PortMiami project, the Corps had assumed there would be minimal impacts to coral, but instead fine-grained sediment from the project injured and smothered tens of thousands of coral colonies and over 250 acres of the reefs. The damage spread out over half a mile from the dredging. Despite these devastating results, the Corps has used the same flawed methodologies to evaluate the Port Everglades proposal, refusing to change any of its procedures to better protect corals.

 

“Floridians know the beauty and the value of these majestic reefs — the only nearshore barrier reef in the continental US. The PortMiami project proved that the Corps of Engineers’ environmental review process is flawed, and that the dredging could irreparably harm this national treasure.” said Brettny Hardy, an attorney at Earthjustice who represents plaintiffs in the case. “Under the law, a proper analysis must be done before further taxpayer dollars are spent on this potentially devastating project.”

 

In the complaint filed today, Miami Waterkeeper, Center for Biological Diversity, Florida Wildlife Federation, and the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) allege that the Corps inadequately considered the risks to corals in approving the Port Everglades dredging project, and violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

 

The complaint points out that the environmental analyses that the Corps and the National Marine Fisheries Service relied on to approve the project simply does not represent “best available science,” the legal standard for agency decision-making, because it fails to account for new information realized during dredging at PortMiami, among other reasons.

 

“After the devastating impacts caused by the dredging at PortMiami to our reefs, we will do everything in our power to ensure that history does not repeat itself at Port Everglades.” said Rachel Silverstein, executive director and waterkeeper of Miami Waterkeeper. “The Corps must follow the law.”

 

While the Corps has already acknowledged that its current environmental analysis is not appropriate or sufficient, it does not plan to begin a new formal evaluation of the dredging plans and environmental considerations until January 2017, at the earliest. In the meantime, it is moving forward with engineering and design of the Port Everglades project and seeking Congressional authorization for project funding, still relying on faulty, outdated environmental documents. 

 

 “It is incredibly reckless that the Corps is continuing to move forward without redoing its evaluation based on the dramatic sedimentation impacts that took place at PortMiami,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re glad the agencies agree more needs to be done, but so far there are no assurances that the new evaluation will be done correctly or in time to make a difference. The details matter. We need to ensure they do this in time and get it right.”

 

Protecting the coral reef will require more expansive – and likely more expensive – monitoring, mitigation, and changes to dredging methodologies. Because the Corps’ analysis is inadequate, the groups fear that the current requested funding levels will fall short of what’s needed to prevent harm to the reef.

 

“That’s exactly why these documents are intended to be done properly before the project is authorized. The Corps is going about this backwards and the result will be an incomplete execution of the plan to protect the reefs,” said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation.

 

The reefs provide huge environmental and economic benefits to South Florida.

 

“The living coral reefs in South Florida are enormously important, not only as an irreplaceable environment, but as a contributor to the economy of the state and Florida’s diving industry,” said Tom Ingram, President and CEO of the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA).  “Each year snorkeling and scuba diving in Florida account for almost 9 million visitor-days, create almost 30,000 full-time equivalent tourism-related jobs, and contribute about $1 billion directly to the Florida economy. DEMA is determined to help protect the natural reef from destruction so that many generations to come can continue to enjoy the opportunity to see, first-hand, this unique and precious natural resource.”

 

DEMA Expresses Concerns to the Governor of Florida over Recent Bloom of Toxic CyanobacteriaOpen in a New Window

The recent bloom of toxic cyanobacteria (often referred to in the media as an “algae” bloom) in Florida’s Lee, Martin, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties has DEMA expressing concern over the negative impact this bloom will have on the recreational diving businesses in these counties, as well as the reputation of Florida as a premier recreational diving location. In response to this situation, DEMA has submitted a letter to the Governor of Florida expressing these concerns and asking for additional action to be taken that will help mitigate future problems.

On June 29, an Executive Order declared the presence of this bloom to be an emergency situation in Martin and St. Lucie counties, and subsequently extended the emergency to cover Lee and Palm Beach Counties. Although it’s difficult to measure the direct impact the cyanobacteria bloom will have on residents participating in diving, DEMA is concerned the bloom could have a direct impact on the local dive industry economy in aspects of the number of diving travelers, hotel occupancy, and long-term consequences such as the loss of Florida’s reputation as a premier US diving destination.

 

DEMA’s letter to the Governor of Florida asks that direct and decisive action be taken to address the current situation, and future problems by continuing to work with the federal government on the problem of water storage and discharge from Lake Okeechobee, as well as work to reduce the effects of pollution that includes sewage runoff and discharges from the phosphate mining industry and agriculture, all of which appear to contribute to this year’s need for emergency action. 

DEMA stressed how Florida’s local recreational diving industry, hotels, restaurants, marinas and other businesses associated with diving activities are all dependent on the availability of quality diving and snorkeling sites.

 

Industry Advisory Update: Port Everglades Dredging OperationOpen in a New Window

-YOUR HELP IS NEEDED- 
Army Corps of Engineers Has Now Filed Their Port Everglades Dredging Plan With Congress

 

SUMMARY:
DEMA has learned that the Army Corps of Engineers has now submitted their Port Everglades dredging plan to the US Congress for approval, while still using an environmental survey similar to that which allowed for coral reef destruction during the dredging of the Port of Miami. DEMA is advising all Florida Dive Businesses to express their concerns to the appropriate members of Congress about this project and ask for another Environmental Impact Study to be done prior to the start of dredging Port Everglades.

TAKE ACTION:

 

As reported on June 29 by DEMA, several organizations, including one DEMA Member Retailer in Fort Lauderdale, have filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the Army Corps of Engineers over the potential destruction of the close-by living coral reef in the planned expansion of Port Everglades. The expansion of the Port is expected to begin in 2018.

DEMA has learned that the Army Corps of Engineers has now submitted their Port Everglades dredging plan to the US Congress for approval, while still using the previous environmental impact statement. We are advising all Florida Dive Businesses to express their concerns to the appropriate members of Congress about this project and ask for another Environmental Impact Study to be done prior to the start of dredging Port Everglades.

DEMA's concern, and the concern of these additional organizations, is that there is a need for a new environmental review, given the substantial damage caused by a recent and similar dredging operation at the Port of Miami. An environmental estimate made at Miami's Port prior to dredging operations there, and using the same methodology as used during a pre-estimate in Port Everglades, indicated far less potential for damage than actually occurred. The organizations filing suit include Miami Water-keeper, the Center for Biological Diversity, Florida Wildlife Federation, Earth-justice and DEMA Retail Member, Sea Experience.

Please contact the following individuals in Congress and express your concerns regarding the Port Everglades Dredging Project. You can utilize the 2015 DEMA letter as a guide in expressing your concerns and send them to:

Congresswoman Lois Frankel
202-225-9890
1037 Longworth House Office Building, 9
Independence Ave SE
Washington, D.C. 20515
http://frankel.house.gov/

Senator Marco Rubio
202-224-3041
284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510
https://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact
Senator Bill Nelson
202-224-5274
716 Senate Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
bill@billnelson.senate.gov

Congressman Peter DeFazio (OR-4)
2134 Rayburn Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-6416

Senator Barbara Boxer
202- 224-8832
Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee
456 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-6175
senator@boxer.senate.gov

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz
1114 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Ph: 202-225-7931
Fax: 202-226-2052

Congressman John Mica (FL-7)
2187 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4035
Fax: (202) 226-0821
Assistant: chelsey.neuhaus@mail.house.gov
Congressman Carlos Curbelo
1429 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2778


In addition, please consider contacting all members of the Broward County Board of Commissioners and members of the Commission for the City of Hollywood to express similar concerns.

DEMA also asks that you send a copy of any correspondence you file to DEMA at PublicPolicy@dema.org.

For more information on the organizations filing suit to create a new environmental review, see the following:

Miami Water Keeper: www.miamiwaterkeeper.org
The Center for Biological Diversity: www.biologicaldiversity.org
Florida Wildlife Federation: www.fwfonline.org
Earth Justice: www.earthjustice.org
Sea Experience: www.seaxp.com

 

DIVING INDUSTRY ADVISORY: Organizations File Notice of Intent to Sue Army Corps of EngineersOpen in a New Window

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DIVING INDUSTRY ADVISORY 

Organizations File Notice of Intent to Sue Army Corps of Engineers

Regarding Port Everglades Dredging

 

 

 

Several organizations, including one DEMA Member Retailer in Fort Lauderdale, have filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the Army Corps of Engineers over the potential destruction of the close-by living coral reef in the planned expansion of Port Everglades.  The expansion of the Port is expected to begin in 2018.

 

Included in the filing are: Miami Water-keeper, the Center for Biological Diversity, Florida Wildlife Federation, Earth-justice and DEMA Member, Sea Experience.  These organizations contend that there is a need for a new environmental review, given the damage caused by a recent and similar dredging operation at the Port of Miami. An environmental estimate made at Miami’s Port prior to dredging operations there, and using the same methodology as used during a pre-estimate in Port Everglades, indicated far less potential for damage than actually occurred.

 

In 2015 DEMA wrote to Terri Jordan-Sellers, Regional Technical Specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Jacksonville, Florida District and expressed similar reservations. In the letter dated April 20, 2015 DEMA indicated concern about the Port Everglades Dredging Project’s impact on the local underwater environment and the resultant effect on the South Florida Diving Industry. Concerns included the fact that the Port’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) indicated that the “turbidity and sedimentation effects associated with the Port Everglades Navigation Project Recommended Plan (will be)…similar to those seen at the ongoing Miami Harbor expansion project” and that, “the material disposed in the Port of Miami project is the same type of material being dredged at Port Everglades…and should result in similar conditions regarding associated sedimentation and turbidity generated by the material.”   The DEMA letter of April 2015 further pointed out that Dr. Richard Dodge, Executive Director of the National Coral Reef Institute and Dean of the Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center, had indicated that dredging in the Port of Miami project apparently caused negative effects on the environment (with potential negative impacts on the local diving industry) and that the Port Everglades project may encounter or create similar issues. 

 

DEMA is advising all Florida Dive Businesses to express their concerns to the Army Corps about this project and ask for another Environmental Impact Study to be done prior to the start of dredging Port Everglades.  You can contact the Army Corps by writing to:

 

Terri Jordan-Sellers, Regional Technical Specialist

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Jacksonville District

701 San Marco Boulevard

Jacksonville, FL 32207

Via Email: Terri.Jordan-Sellers@usace.army.mil

 

DEMA also asks that you send a copy of your Army Corps correspondence to DEMA at PublicPolicy@dema.org.

 

 

In addition to recent South Florida articles about this issue, you can find out more information about the organizations that notified the Army Corp of their intent to sue by clicking on the websites listed below:

 

Miami Water Keeper: www.miamiwaterkeeper.org

The Center for Biological Diversity: www.biologicaldiversity.org

Florida Wildlife Federation: www.fwfonline.org

Earth Justice: www.earthjustice.org

Sea Experience: www.seaxp.com

 

DEMA Requests All Members of the Industry to Sign Online Petition to Stop Dredging of Cayman IslandsOpen in a New Window

**Thousands Have Already Signed Online Petition to Stop Plans for the Cruise Ship Berthing Facility **

The Cayman Islands are a popular tourist destination and well known for their beautiful coral reefs. Currently, officials within the Cayman Government are reviewing plans to build a permanent cruise ship port that would require extensive dredging in the George Town Harbor area, which would damage the coral reefs and ecosystem near the proposed berthing facility, including several popular dive sites. DEMA urgently asks the Industry for their support in petitioning the Cayman Government to halt these plans by signing this online petition.

 

DEMA is very concerned with the potential for environmental destruction and economic damage to the local dive operators and the worldwide diving community due to the construction and operation of this cruise ship facility. A draft Environmental Statement (ES) dated June 2, 2015, conducted for the Cayman Islands government indicates that damage to the coral reefs will occur due to the required direct dredging action, turbidity and siltation near George Town during construction. Additional damage will likely be caused by the ongoing dredging required to maintain the berthing facility.  In addition, in studying the data presented in the ES, the actual economic benefit to the Cayman Islands appears to be questionable; construction of the berthing facility would require destruction of dive sites such as Devil’s Grotto, Soto’s Reef and the Balboa wreck.  While the ES states that it might be possible to re-locate the Balboa at the cost of millions of dollars, and it might be possible to re-locate and save some of the living reef material, the ES is also clear that the likely result would still be a net loss of living coral. 

 

Given that tourists arriving by air to the Cayman Islands (rather than cruise ship) account for 77% of the tourist revenue generated there, it appears to make little economic sense to destroy the very fabric of Cayman's attraction to tourists, to accommodate a greater number of cruise ships ferrying tourists who, according the Environmental Statement, spend an average of less than CI$100 per person on island.

 

DEMA asks for members of the Industry to sign and share the online petition regarding this issue as initiated by the Save Sea Foundation. 30,000 signatures are requested and already more than 16,000 individuals have signed the petition to stop the proposed dredging. PLEASE sign the petition today!

 

More information on the economic and environmental impacts resulting from the proposed plans can be found in DEMA’s recent alert.  In addition, DEMA has written directly to the Cayman Department of the Environment, expressing concerns on behalf of the Industry. That letter can be found here.

DEMA, The Diving Equipment & Marketing Association | US Toll Free: (800) 862-3483 | Ph: (858) 616-6408 | Fx: (858) 616-6495 | info@dema.org