ALERT - Biscayne National Park:Spearfishing and Lobster Mini-Season
Friday, December 6, 2019
You may be aware that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is holding a public meeting in Panama City, Florida on December 11 and 12 to present their recommendations on diving activities in Biscayne National Park (BNP). The recommendations for BNP are currently scheduled for presentation on December 12.
To date, FWC’s recommendations for Biscayne National Park have included prohibiting spear fishing on scuba or prohibiting trigger devices, and eliminating the two-day mini-lobster season in the Park. FWC introduced these two diving-related regulations as part of their Fisheries Management Plan for BNP.
IMPORTANTLY, FWC HAS NO DATA TO CORROBORATE THEIR PLAN FOR RESTRICTING EITHER SPEAR FISHING OR THE TWO-DAY MINI-LOBSTER SEASON.
UNLIKE FOR DIVING, FWC HAS NO SPECIAL PLANS TO RESTRICT HOOK AND LINE FISHING ACTIVITIES. DEMA believes FWC sees this as an opportunity to target and restrict diving activities, while placing the burden on divers for reaching FWC’s goal of increasing the size and abundance of fishery species in the Park by 20%. Within their own presentation, FWC clearly states that the issues of management of the Park are related to (a) the Park’s proximity to urban areas, (b) reduced water quality, (c) marine debris, (d) vessel groundings and (e) fishing pressure. Fish size and species abundance in Biscayne National Park are not related to diving activities, and certainly not to selective activities such as spear fishing.
FWC has released their presentation on the Draft Rules for Biscayne National Park. It is important to note that among them is the recommendation to “Establish Coral Reef Protection Areas (CRPA’s) inside BNP where lobstering would be prohibited.” Such open-ended recommendations could easily lead to unwarranted restrictions on diving in general, and the two-day lobster mini season specifically. If these CRPA rules are adopted, divers will not be allowed to take lobster, but fishing will continue uninterrupted. This meeting on December 12 will be the last opportunity for divers to have input as it is FWC practice for Draft Rules to be implemented as is, and there is no legal challenge available following adoption.
DEMA strongly urges divers and diving professionals to attend the FWC Public Meeting scheduled for December 12 in Panama City to voice that diving restrictions are not warranted, and restrictions to spearfishing and the lobster mini-season should only be enacted if similar restrictions are placed on hook and line fishing. IF DIVERS DO NOT ATTEND THIS MEETING, FWC WILL ASSUME THAT THERE ARE NO OBJECTIONS TO THESE RESTRICTIONS. PLEASE ENCOURAGE ALL DIVERS AND YOUR DIVING CUSTOMERS TO ATTEND!
If you are unable to attend the December 12 FWC meeting, write directly to the Fish and Wildlife Commission BEFORE DECEMBER 12 and ask them to remove these unnecessary restrictions on vital diving activities in the Park. Send your written comments directly to: Marine@MyFWC.com and Commissioners@MyFWC.com.
DEMA has already provided a letter to FWC outlining our concerns. Please feel free to use DEMA's comments to assist in writing your own to the Commission