Press Release Jul 30, 2015

Florida Congressional Delegation Spearheads Anti-Coral Reef and Fisheries Protection Legislation

Bill Would Have Far Reaching Implications, Jeopardizing Coastal National Parks Across the Country

Last month, after more than 15 years in the making, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) celebrated the National Park Service’s decision to create a marine reserve within a small portion of Biscayne National Park – just 6 percent of the park that is 95 percent water – would be dedicated to the marine reserve to address the park’s ailing coral reefs and help replenish dwindling fish populations. This decision was reached with overwhelming public support— with more than 90 percent of the comments collected in favor of creating a marine reserve. In direct opposition to the Biscayne marine reserve, legislation was introduced titled, Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act (H.R. 3310), led by members of the Florida Congressional delegation. A U.S. House field hearing is planned for Monday, August 3 in South Florida.

Statement by Sarah Barmeyer, Senior Managing Director of Conservation Programs, National Parks Conservation Association

“We are alarmed that members of the Florida delegation and Congress would prevent the National Park Service from protecting nationally treasured coral reefs and fisheries at Biscayne National Park. Their efforts are meant to derail the final, and fully vetted, management plan for Biscayne. And beyond South Florida, their proposed national policy could have far reaching effects, adversely impacting 86 coastal national parks across the country. These include places like Acadia National Park in Maine, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in the Great Lakes and Channel Island National Park in California.

“Experts at the National Park Service, the caretakers of this and all national parks, confirmed that Biscayne’s coral reefs are dying, and that some species are on the verge of collapse. Once plentiful native fish are now at record low levels and most are too small for anglers to keep.

“After more than 15 years of scientific analysis, interagency coordination at the state and federal levels, and extensive public outreach – where 90 percent of the public support the creation of a marine reserve at Biscayne – the National Park Service announced last month it will create a marine reserve at the national park as a last ditch attempt to save its failing corals and replenish fish populations. It’s important to note that this marine reserve will still allow for boating, swimming, snorkeling and diving.

“As the country’s largest marine national park – Biscayne is every bit as important a national park as Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon. It is outrageous that members of the Florida delegation and Congress are actively fighting against the protection of this critical six percent of marine reserve at Biscayne.”

Learn more about NPCA’s support for the creation of a marine reserve at Biscayne National Park at www.npca.org/MoreFishInFL or follow the conversation online with #MoreFishInFL.

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About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.