Biscayne National Park, marine sanctuary plan rewrites up for talks

kwadlow@keynoter.comDecember 7, 2013 

Future management plans for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Biscayne National Park will dominate two Florida Keys meetings this week.

On Tuesday, the Sanctuary Advisory Council holds a daylong session at the Islander Resort of Islamorada, mile marker 82.

The advisory council, comprising residents with an interest in rules of the 2,900-square-mile area, is working to develop its recommendations for the sanctuary's new management plan. The plan hasn't been updated since 1997.

Those rules could include changes to existing marine managed areas, like Sanctuary Preservation Areas or Ecological Reserves.

At Tuesday's 9 a.m. council meeting, members will have a moderated discussion on how the management-plan process is progressing, and what system the council will use to make its recommendations to federal officials in February.

Controversy developed earlier this year over early proposals for expansion of managed areas.

Final decisions on the management-plan specifics will be made by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration staff, and returned to the Keys for public hearings.

In an afternoon program, Shannon Estenoz, a Key West native with the U.S. Department of the Interior, will update council members on Everglades restoration efforts that affect Keys water quality.

The meeting is open to the public, with specific times for comment.

Biscayne National Park hearing

Managers of Biscayne National Park hold a public hearing from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Holiday Inn of Key Largo, mile marker 100 oceanside.

The session likely will focus on Alternative 6, a new proposal drafted by park managers after complaints about a proposed no-fishing area of 16 square miles north of Key Largo.

The new proposal suggests a larger managed area but with a new quota-permit system for recreational anglers and sportfishing guides. Most commercial fishing would be banned.

A special recreation zone would "limit or prohibit access and activities that are most damaging to the coral reef system, while maintaining access for a diverse group of park users," park Superintendent Brian Carlstrom said.

A similar plan, Alternative 7, would eliminate the quota system but close all fishing from June through September. Most commercial fishing would be banned in the area.

Comments can be submitted at the Wednesday meeting or online through Feb. 20.

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