A list of 24 nearshore areas proposed as new habitat-protection areas will be outlined to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary's Advisory Council at its Tuesday meeting in Islamorada.
The presentation by the council's Shallow Water Wildlife and Habitat Protection Working Group will be among issues on the day-long meeting at the Islander Resort, mile marker 82.1. The open meeting begins at 9 a.m.
The Shallow Water group presents its 14 pages of recommendations for adding the 24 wildlife areas and modifying 21 existing areas. Two areas proposed - at Pelican Shoal and Little Crane Key - were listed for elimination.
Suggested rule changes at the existing and new locations range from no-entry zones to no-motor or idle-speed areas.
"The Marathon Guides Association has been trying to get [an-idle speed area] off Vaca Cut for close to 15 years," said Richard Grathwohl, a Marathon flats guide who serves on the Sanctuary Advisory Council and the Shallow Water working group.
"We tried to get everything worked out by leaving channels for homeowners to run off plane," Grathwohl said. "Something's got to be done."
"The fish have been pushed to extremes," he said. "People don't realize there are tarpon in there so the fish get trounced and run over."
If eventually approved as endorsed by the working group, the nearshore area would require idle speed from Vaca Cut to Sombrero Beach, and off Boot Key.
"What's come through [the working group] is pretty decent," said Justin Bruland, a Marathon commercial fishermen serving on the panel.
"We might hear different things from fishermen in other parts of the Keys but it's very hard to please everybody," Bruland said. "We're trying to do what's best for the environment."
The final recommendations that emerge from the Sanctuary Advisory Council for any sanctuary rule changes will be reviewed by federal and state officials before returning to Monroe County for public comment. The earliest that any new zones could take effect would be in mid-2015.
The Shallow Water report with the full list of recommended areas can be found online at the website: floridakeys.noaa.gov/review/workgroups.html.
Also on the agenda will be a presentation of "user fees and alternative funding mechanisms" suggested as possibilities during the sanctuary's first round of comments in the ongoing management-plan update for the sanctuary that covers 2,900 square nautical miles of marine habitat.
Recommendations from the advisory council's Coral Reef Ecosystem Restoration Working Group also will be presented but are not expected to spark controversy.
A scheduled 12:30 p.m. item sees Roy Crabtree, administrator of the NOAA Fisheries Service Southeast Region and Jessica McCawley, director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Division of Marine Fisheries Management, discuss South Florida fisheries management.
The panel working on possible changes or additions to the sanctuary's network of protected area on or near the coral reef -- the Ecological Reserves, Preservation Areas and Wildlife Protection Working Group -- will provide an update Tuesday but is not expected to detail its recommendations.
The offshore working group holds two more meetings, on July 11 and July 29 at the Marathon Garden Club, before delivering its report scheduled for the August SAC meeting.