If a Florida management plan known as Our Florida Reefs (OFR) has their way, scuba divers will need to leave their spearguns at home. They will also need to cut their bug hunts short.
Our Florida Reefs has proposed 68 RMA’s (Recommended Management Actions) that, if approved, will increase regulations for many Florida divers while adding additional environmental protections for the reefs and offshore waters in the state.
OFR is a community planning process intended to bring together a variety of reef users and stakeholders together with agencies like the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida Water Management District, and scientists and professionals from marine-related industries. The process is intended to increase public involvement in the future management of southeast Florida’s coral reefs by seeking input from community members on the development of recommendations that can become part of a comprehensive management strategy to ensure healthy coral reefs in the future. It’s a process began officially in June 2013.
Some of the proposals are controversial, especially among certain members of the dive community. One of those is RMA N-59, which recommends that the Florida Wildlife Commission outlaws spearfishing while using scuba gear. Under the proposal, all spearfishing while wearing scuba gear will be banned. The stated intention of N-59 is “to eliminate the targeting of certain species of fish by spearfishers, as well as the discriminate removal of commercially and ecologically important “trophy” reef fish species and individuals of reproductive size”.
The negative impacts recognized by RMA N-59 include the potential loss of revenue for dive boat operators and dive shops from spearfishermen. If passed, the law could take effect within 2 years.
Florida charter agency Sea-Elusive Charters commented, “There are are some good ideas coming from these meetings. Saving our reefs is important, BUT, the initiative N-59 (banning spearfishing for SCUBA divers) needs to be stopped. Although this may not directly affect the Florida Keys, or where you live and dive – this radical step (initiative N-59) should concern you. This could be the first step in spreading this kind of ban throughout all U.S. Waters!”
Proposal RMA S-97 aims to reduce the Lobster Mini-Season bag limits from 12 lobsters to 6 lobsters per person per day (the mini-season is just 2 days long). It’s something that doesn’t sit well with divers who are currently allowed to fill their refrigerators with up to 24 lobster to hold them over until the regular season opens in August.
Another proposal also suggests making the collection of parrot fish and surgeon fish illegal (which are popular as tropical aquarium fish).
Here are a few of the key proposals: (a complete list of the recommended actions can be found here).
N-59: Ban All Spearfishing on SCUBA
S-54: Apply for Florida Reef Tract to be Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site
S-86: Ban live mounting, and promote proper handling and release techniques of all shark species
S-97: Reduce bag limits to 6 per person per day during lobster mini season
Land-Based Sources of Pollution:
N-68: Regulate Fertilizers and Pesticides
N-75: Offer Free Pump-Out Stations to Boaters
N-78: Reduce Ground Water Pollution from Septic/Storage Tanks
N-120: Overturn Current Legislation that Restricts Bans on Plastic Bags
S-25: Encourage the Closure of all Wastewater Outfalls by 2025
S-28: Support Everglades Flow Restoration
Maritime Industry and Coastal Construction
S-1: Remove Tires and Debris from Broward County Artificial Tire Reef Projects
S-100: Support Redefining the Port of Miami Anchorage to Reduce Anchor Damage to the Reefs
S-101: Create a Required Training Program for Coastal Construction Project Contractors
S-107: Encourage Biological Monitoring of Resources Impacted by Beach ReNourishment Projects
What do you think? Should California follow by banning spearfishing on scuba and reducing limits on lobster hunting? Share your comments below.