New Study: Careless Boaters Damage Florida Bay Seagrass, Affect Local Fishing

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   January 4, 2006
Contact:   Jason Bennis, Marine Policy Manager, NPCA, cell phone: 954-309-9308


New Study: Careless Boaters Damage Florida Bay Seagrass, Affect Local Fishing

Miami - Negligent boaters are harming Florida Bay’s fragile seagrass, which may affect recreational and commercial fishing, according to a new report released today by the National Parks Conservation Association’s (NPCA) Center for State of the Parks. The report precedes a congressional field hearing in Miami next week, which will examine the health of Florida Bay and the Everglades, and other national parks in Florida.

“Florida Bay’s fantastic fishing may be compromised by negligent boaters,” said NPCA Marine Program Manager Jason Bennis. “The National Park Service needs greater funding and staff to combat this damaging activity and educate boaters about the risks to fish and other underwater resources when they run aground.”

NPCA’s new assessment reveals that inexperienced or careless boaters are damaging seagrass in Florida Bay with their propellers when they run aground in shallow areas. Propellers churn up sediment that suffocates aquatic plants, and rip apart the fragile seagrass, leaving deep, damaging furrows that can take a decade or more to heal. This affects the fishing industry because Florida Bay’s seagrasses are home to fish sought by recreational anglers, and serve as a nursery for lobster and shrimp sought by commercial fishermen.

The National Park Service recently produced and distributed a brochure to boaters about how to safely navigate Florida Bay, and added more signage and buoys that warn boaters of shallow areas. NPCA is concerned that additional funding is still needed to support ranger patrols and boater safety courses for visitors. NPCA’s assessment says that the Park Service is one-third short the number of law enforcement rangers needed to patrol Florida Bay and the park.

On January 11, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), Chairman of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), are holding a congressional field hearing in Miami to review the funding needs and challenges facing national parks in Florida, including Florida Bay and the Everglades.

The hearing next week is the eighth in a series of congressional hearings—the first focused effort by Congress in decades to examine national park funding needs in-depth, and to identify solutions to meet the challenges. The National Park Service and Nathaniel Reed, assistant secretary of the Department of the Interior in the Nixon and Ford administrations and member of NPCA’s National Council, will provide testimony.

NPCA launched the landmark State of the Parks® program in 2000 to assess the health of national parks across the country.

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