DEMA Regulatory Alert: Biscayne National Park - Spearfishing and Lobster Mini-Season
Tuesday, February 11, 2020
You may be aware that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is holding a public meeting in Tallahassee, Florida on February 19 and 20 to present their final recommendations on diving activities in Biscayne National Park (BNP). The recommendations for BNP are currently scheduled for presentation on February 19.
FWC’s recommendations for Biscayne National Park have included prohibiting lobstering in certain areas of the park, as well as restricting the use of triggering devices and breathing apparatus while spear fishing. Although the restrictions on spear fishing are no longer part of the FWC’s staff recommendations, the Commission may still consider this previously recommended restriction prior to final rule making. 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 original 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 FINAL 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 February 19th is the last opportunity for divers to have input as it is FWC practice for Final 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 February 19th in Tallahassee 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 February 19 FWC meeting, write directly to the Fish and Wildlife Commission BEFORE FEBRUARY 19 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 sent a letter to FWC outlining our concerns. Please feel free to use DEMA's comments to assist in writing your own to the Commission.
DEMA, the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association, is an international organization dedicated to the sustained growth of the recreational scuba diving and snorkeling industry. For more information on DEMA, call 858-616-6408 or visit www.dema.org.