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Talk of Marine Reserve for Biscayne National Park Hits Capitol Hill

April 27, 2012

MIAMI – Representatives from the Florida fishing community are among those on Capitol Hill today (Friday) at a hearing to ask lawmakers to create a marine reserve in Biscayne National Park. The 10,000-acre reserve would prohibit fishing, in order to enhance other activities, such as boating, snorkeling and scuba diving.

John Adornato, the Suncoast regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), says creating the dedicated area would increase fish sizes and populations, and broaden the diversity of species by improving the conditions of the coral reefs.

"The opportunity to provide a unique snorkeling and diving experience will be an incredible economic engine for tourism in south Florida."

Allocating the acreage to become a marine reserve would not cost any money, according to Adornato. NPCA research indicates every dollar spent on conserving Biscayne National Park returns $5 to the local economy. Setting aside a dedicated area for marine life would also help repair the reefs, which have been degraded in recent years, says Adornato.

"Our national parks drive our economy. National parks are not just important for Florida, but for everyone across the country to come and enjoy."

He notes that Dry Tortugas National Park was granted a marine reserve designation in 2007, and has seen significant improvements to the wildlife within just five years.

Some fishermen in the area oppose the reserve, saying that "less extreme" measures should be taken first to try and renew the fish population, such as fishing limits. But Jack Curlett, a recreational fisherman in the area, is among those who will testify in support of the marine reserve. He says 10,000 acres is a small portion of what's available to him to fish in the park.

"I mean, I don't want to give up fishing, but I'm willing to give up seven percent of the park so they can regenerate that."

The marine reserve discussion takes place in an oversight subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee, which is hearing possible revisions to the General Management Plan for Biscayne Park.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL