Keep Florida Fishing, Industry Leaders Oppose Our Florida Reefs’ Recommendations to Close 20-30 Percent of SE Florida Coral Reef Tract

Fishing and Boating Organizations Cite Flawed Process, Lack of Evidence in OFR Proposals-

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Contact: Christina Johnson, 850.339.5773, Christina@On3PR.com

(COCONUT CREEK, FLA.) – Keep Florida Fishing (KFF), an advocacy arm of The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) today held a press conference prior to the Our Florida Reefs (OFR) Community Working Group’s public meeting to voice their strong opposition to OFR’s recommendations to close 20-30 percent of the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Tract that goes from Stuart to Key Biscayne and to make the area a National Marine Sanctuary that would give additional oversight of Florida waters to the federal government.

Keep Florida Fishing supporters, along with local and state industry leaders, presented credible information and compelling testimony as to why the OFR process is flawed, is not based on scientific evidence and is heavily biased toward fishing closures.  Standing in solidarity with KFF were fishing and boating interests, representing millions of Florida residents and tourists who contribute $9.3 billion to the state’s economy and $46.5 million in conservation efforts.

Gary Jennings, KFF Manager, stated, “It is disingenuous for a community working group to come together to gather testimony in order to make meaningful recommendations on public policy, only to dismiss the comments of more than 3,000 members of the public who oppose the Our Florida Reefs proposals related to fishing restrictions and additional federal oversight of our state waters.”

George Poveromo, producer and host of the nationally televised series ‘George Poveromo’s World of Saltwater Fishing’ and offshore spokesperson for the Coastal Conservation Association Florida, said, “We are fighting for the rights of recreational anglers to fish so that future generations can enjoy this great sport. These unnecessary closures and so-called no fishing zones only harm our industry, one that is a vital part of Florida’s economy, without addressing the real issues affecting our coral reefs.”

Jeff Weakley, editor of Florida Sportsman Magazine also shared that “As a lifelong angler, it is difficult to understand how Our Florida Reefs can support restricting fishing access on up to 30 percent of the reef when there is no credible scientific evidence to justify that recommendation. We need to be working together to protect the southeast Florida coral reef tract, but by ignoring public comment and the proven, science-based leadership of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, OFR does a tremendous disservice to anglers.”

Jamie Bunn, owner of Bluewater Movements, added, “We have organized competitive fishing tournaments for numerous species, such as sailfish, dolphin and other pelagics, along Florida’s southeast coast and have seen phenomenal fishing in recent years. Our Florida Reefs should focus on water quality and other factors that we know are affecting the coral reef tract and if there is a problem with fisheries, other management options should be explored first before taking drastic measures like closing the area to fishing.”

The fishing and boating interests who have serious concerns about the OFR process have outlined the following arguments. The document may be found here, and also within the release.

Florida Anglers Have a Voice.

On behalf of many of Florida’s leading fishing and boating organizations, we have serious concerns regarding the Our Florida Reefs Community Working Group (OFR) process that is developing recommendations for the management of the southeast Florida coral reef tract from Stuart to Key Biscayne. OFR’s recommendations are not based on sound scientific principles and the process was significantly flawed.

•    OFR dismissed the opinions of more than 3,000 members of the public and the Florida Legislature who opposed their recommendations for National Marine Sanctuary and UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the entire area and for closing 20-30 percent of the reef tract to fishing through no-take Marine Protected Areas.

•    These ignored comments represented more than 95 percent of the input submitted. There has been a general disregard for public input by OFR, as evidenced by their refusal to even consider removing recommendations that clearly lack public support, and an attitude that, as members of OFR, they are the community rather than representatives of the greater community.

•    NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program has greatly influenced OFR’s recommendations through its facilitation, participation and funding of the process and has strongly advocated for recommendations related to fishing closures and additional federal oversight in state waters. In addition, NOAA representatives provided extensive input on fisheries issues to the group, though none were NOAA fisheries managers.

•    Educational presentations to OFR were heavily biased towards fishing closures, driving fishing interests away from the table. Thus, OFR alienated fishing community and industry participants throughout the process and never sought to re-engage these important stakeholders.

•    OFR lacks credible scientific evidence indicating that there are any fisheries problems that need to be addressed in the area, and the group has completely disregarded the sound, science-based opinions of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), an agency recognized worldwide as a leader in fisheries management.

Supported by the following fishing and boating organizations:

American Sportfishing Association
Keep America Fishing
The International Game Fish Association
West Palm Beach Fishing Club
National Marine Manufacturers Association
Florida Guides Association
Marine Industries Association of Florida Inc.
Marine Industries Association of the Treasure Coast, Inc.

Keep Florida Fishing
Coastal Conservation Association Florida
Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County
Snook & Gamefish Foundation
Standing Watch
Boat U.S.
Fishing Rights Alliance
Port Salerno Commercial Fishing Dock Authority
Spearboard.com

About Keep Florida Fishing
Keep Florida Fishing is an advocacy arm of the American Sportfishing Association with the goal of ensuring Florida anglers have clean waters, abundant fisheries and access to both. Learn more at www.KeepFloridaFishing.org. Find Keep Florida Fishing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

About the American Sportfishing Association
American Sportfishing Association is the sportfishing industry’s trade association, created in 1933 to represent tackle manufacturers’ business interests. Since then, the association has evolved from representing the interests of just tackle manufacturers to championing the entire sportfishing community. The association is funded through membership dues and income generated by its annual trade show. Learn more at http://www.asafishing.org/.