• Purple, yellow, gold and orange sponges and soft corals wave against a turquioise sea.

    Biscayne

    National Park Florida

Draft Environmental Impact Statement For Fishery Management Plan is Available for Public Review

Subscribe RSS Icon | What is RSS
Date: August 24, 2009

The National Park Service (NPS) today announced the availability of the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Biscayne National Park’s Fishery Management Plan (FMP).  A series of public meetings, all running from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., will be held as follows:

Tuesday, September 15 meeting in Florida City at the City Hall, located at 404 W. Palm Drive

Wednesday, September 16 meeting in Miami at the Crowne Plaza Hotel MIA located at 950 NW 42 Avenue 

Thursday, September 17 in Key Largo at the Holiday Inn Express 99701 Overseas Hwy

These public meetings will provide an opportunity to learn about the draft EIS and submit verbal and/or written comments. Presentations and exhibits will be available to facilitate understanding of the status of Biscayne National Park’s fisheries resources and the goals and potential management actions under each alternative presented in the draft EIS. Park staff will be present to discuss the draft EIS and answer questions.

Biscayne National Park, the largest marine park in the National Park system, features a spectacular array of mangrove, coastal hammocks, seagrass, hardbottom, and coral reef habitats. The Park hosts both commercial and recreational fishers. Increases in South Florida’s boating and fishing population combined with improved fishing and boating technology pose a threat to the long-term sustainability of fishery-related resources of BISC. Within the last decade, a variety of scientific studies completed by different institutions and agencies have all indicated that Biscayne National Park’s fisheries resources have declined from previous levels, and all studies indicate concern about the long-term sustainability of the Park’s fisheries resources. Many fishery-targeted species (particularly snapper and grouper species) that once were plentiful in Biscayne National Park have declined in abundance and/or size so substantially that legal-sized individuals of these species are now only rarely observed in or harvested from park waters. In order to protect and restore Biscayne National Park’s diminishing fisheries resources, ensure that fishing activities in the park are conducted in a sustainable manner, and comply with the National Park Service mandate to provide inspiration, education and enjoyment to this and future generations, the National Park Service has developed a Fishery Management Plan to guide fishery management decisions in Biscayne National Park for the next five to ten years.    

Five alternatives addressing concerns about the status and long-term conservation of the park’s fisheries resources are described in the draft EIS. The development of the alternatives and the identification of the preferred alternative were based on a combination of public input (derived from two public comment periods and two series of public meetings, and the input of the FMP Working Group), inter-agency meetings, and environmental and socioeconomic analyses. The alternatives are as follows: 

Alternative 1 (“Maintain Status Quo”), the no-action alternative, serves as a basis of comparison with the other alternatives. Alternative 1 is characterized by continuing current fisheries management according to the Park’s enabling legislation, established NPS management policies and existing authorities, and in conjunction with state fishery regulations. No regulatory changes would be triggered by the establishment of the FMP. Regulatory changes would occur only if mandated by the State of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) following their normal rule-making process, or through the federal regulatory and public review process.

Alternative 2 (“Maintain At Or Above Current Levels”) seeks to maintain Biscayne National Park’s fisheries resources at or above currently existing levels. As needed, management actions would be implemented (in conjunction with the FWC) and could include moderate increases in minimum harvest sizes, moderate decreases in bag limits, and seasonal and/or spatial closures. Numbers of commercial fishers would remain at current levels or decrease over time, and fishing-related habitat impacts would be reduced. Additional Park-specific regulations and management actions would be enacted to maintain current levels only if levels of fish stocks or recreational fishing experience decline, or if fishing-related habitat impacts increase. 

Alternative 3 (“Improve Over Current Levels”) aims to increase the abundance and average size of fishery-targeted species within the Park by at least 10% over existing conditions. A range of management actions to achieve the desired resource status would be considered, and include moderate increases in minimum harvest sizes, moderate decreases in bag limits, and seasonal and/or spatial closures. Under this alternative, lobster mini-season would be eliminated in the Park and regulations would be enacted to prohibit the use of an air supply or gear with a trigger mechanism while spearfishing. Numbers of commercial fishers would remain at current levels or decrease over time, and fishing-related habitat impacts would be reduced. Under this and all subsequent alternatives, the Park would require a recreational use permit for all boats engaged in any recreational activity (such as fishing or diving); the permit would not be required for boaters passing through (e.g. traveling the Intracoastal Waterway), but not recreating in, the Park. This alternative would require implementation of new regulations governing fishing activities within the Park that would be accomplished through collaboration with FWC and further public input.   

Alternative 4 (“Rebuild and Conserve Park Fisheries Resources”) is the NPS’s preferred alternative and proposes to increase the abundance and average size of fishery-targeted species within the Park by at least 20% over existing conditions, as well as reduce fishing-related habitat impacts. Possible management actions to achieve substantial improvement of fisheries resources could include considerable increases in minimum size limits, designation of slot limits, substantial decreases in bag limits, and seasonal and/or spatial closures. Under Alternative 4, lobster mini-season would be eliminated in the Park and regulations would be enacted to prohibit the use of an air supply or gear with a trigger mechanism while spearfishing. Numbers of commercial fishers would decrease over time via establishment of a non-transferable permit system. As in Alternative 3, the Park would require a recreational use permit for all boats engaged in any recreational activity (such as fishing or diving); the permit would not be required for boaters passing through (e.g. traveling the Intracoastal Waterway), but not recreating in, the Park. This alternative would require considerable changes to current fishing regulations within the Park, and would be accomplished through collaboration with FWC and further public input.

Alternative 5 (“Restore Park Fisheries Resources”) seeks to return the sizes and abundance of targeted species within 20% of their estimated, historic (pre-exploitation) levels and to prevent further decline in fishing-related habitat impacts. Possible management actions to achieve the desired conditions would be enacted in conjunction with the FWC and could include substantial increases in minimum size limits, designation of slot limits, substantial decreases in bag limits, seasonal and/or spatial closures, prohibition of extractive fishing (i.e. only allowing catch-and-release fishing), and a temporary moratorium on all fishing activity within the Park. Under this alternative, lobster mini-season would be eliminated in the Park and regulations would be enacted to prohibit spearfishing within the Park. Numbers of commercial fishers would decrease over time via establishment of a non-transferable permit system. As in Alternatives 3 and 4, the Park would require a recreational use permit for all boats engaged in any recreational activity (such as fishing or diving); the permit would not be required for boaters passing through (e.g. traveling the Intracoastal Waterway), but not recreating in, the Park. This alternative would require the most extreme changes to current fishing regulations within the Park, and the changes to the Park’s fishing regulations would be accomplished through collaboration with FWC and further public input.

Biscayne National Park’s Fishery Management Plan is now available for public review and comment. The draft EIS document can be downloaded in its entirety from the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment site at http://parkplanning.nps.gov. Printed copies will also available for public review at the following public libraries in Miami-Dade County:

Main Library, 101 W. Flagler Street, Miami 33130

South Dade Regional Library, 10750 S.W. 211th Street, Miami 33189

Homestead Library, 700 N Homestead Blvd, Homestead 33030

The public comment period closes on October 6, 2009. If you wish to comment on the FMP draft EIS, you may submit your comments by any one of several methods. You may mail comments to Fishery Management Plan, Biscayne National Park, 9700 SW 328th Street, Homestead, Florida 33033. You may also comment via the Internet at http://parkplanning.nps.gov. If you do not receive a confirmation from the system that we have received your Internet message, contact BISC Fisheries at 305-230-1144. You may submit verbal and written comments at one of our public meetings. Finally, you may hand-deliver comments to Biscayne National Park, 9700 SW 328th Street, Homestead, Florida 33033. Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment – including your personal identifying information – may be made public available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Did You Know?