Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Restricted Fishing Zones Discussed Enforcement Is Concern of Many

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Restricted Fishing Zones Discussed Enforcement Is Concern of Many

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Julavits, Times-Union outdoors editor

ATLANTIC BEACH -- At a public meeting Tuesday night on possible sites for restricted fishing zones off Northeast Florida, probably the most popular suggestion -- made at least partially in jest -- was to put one off Southeast Georgia.

That "not in my backyard" reaction is one of the hurdles being faced by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council as it conducts a series of public meetings on the use of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Tuesday's meeting, one of nine scheduled in Southeast coastal communities, was held at the Sea Turtle Inn in Atlantic Beach.

MPAs are defined by the federal council as a "network of specific areas of marine environments reserved and managed for the primary purpose of aiding in the recovery of overfished stocks and to ensure the persistence of healthy fish stocks, fisheries and habitats." The council has further defined several MPA options, ranging from those that would close areas permanently to all fishing, to areas with limited closures and some harvest allowed.

Specifically, this series of meetings is focusing on MPAs that would be permanently closed to the harvest of grouper and snapper -- grouper populations, in particular, appear to be in trouble -- but open to fishing for pelagic species. The public is being asked at the meetings to come forward with suggestions on possible MPA sites.

"The council has no preconceived notions of size or where these areas will be," council biologist Kerry O'Malley told the audience. "The people who are using the resource know best what size the areas should be.

"The council has decided to move forward with the exploration of these areas, but it's not a done deal."

Many in the audience wondered how MPA's could be effectively enforced, and council representatives agreed that enforcement was a concern. …

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