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ASA hits out at Biscayne National Park fisheries closure

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The ASA attended a congressional hearing on Biscayne National Park and spoke out about the fishery closures there.

Representatives from the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) have testified at a joint congressional hearing on the importance of maintaining reasonable public access to fisheries across the US.

ASA member Carl Leiderman hit out at the closure to recreational fishing of nearly 10,000 acres of Biscayne National Park, Florida, without credible science to support the move.

“While significant in terms of lost public access, closing this area will do nothing to improve the overall fisheries conditions in the park. There is simply no good science to support it. And that, coupled with the adverse economic impact this closure will bring to many marine related small businesses in south Florida makes this closure a very bad idea.”

Well over 100 members of the public attended the hearing on the implications of restricted access at Biscayne National Park for small businesses, the local economy and the environment. It was hosted by the US House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources and the Committee on Small Business.

Throughout the development of the General Management Plan for Biscayne National Park, through which the marine reserve is being implemented, the recreational fishing industry and community, has continually expressed concerns over the insufficient scientific basis for the marine reserve. These concerns are shared by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, which co-manages the park’s fisheries resources.

Despite developing alternative management options that will achieve resource management goals while also allowing for pubic access, the recommendations of the recreational fishing communities were ignored by the National Park Service, which ultimately elected to close over 30% of the park’s reef tract to fishing.

Scott Salyers, the second ASA representative to testify, said: “I believe that better educating users, combined with responsible management actions that allow for continued access, can be effective in restoring the park’s fisheries and habitat if given the chance.

“We fishermen want sustainable fisheries for years to come. We want our children and their children to enjoy the same fishing experience that we have.”

Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla), Carlos Curbelo and 28 other original sponsors recently introduced H.R. 3310 that will help stop this and similar unwarranted fishing closures from happening. The ‘Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act’ requires the National Park Service and Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to have approval from state fish and wildlife agencies before closing state waters to recreational or commercial fishing.

“There are many Congressional leaders to thank for holding this hearing to shine a light on this important issue,” said Gary Jennings, Manager of Keep Florida Fishing. “I also want to thank the dozens of recreational fishermen who showed up and helped to pack the room.

“The Biscayne closure is a clear sign that the recreational fishing community needs to be united together to support fisheries conservation and allow for continued access to fisheries resources – that is what Keep Florida Fishing is all about.”

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