Marine sanctuary starts to narrow management review

Recommendations for new Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary management and regulations could be hammered out by October 2013, according to a Sanctuary Advisory Council timeline.

The volunteer members of the Advisory Council received a draft work plan for the 2,900-square-mile marine sanctuary at its Tuesday meeting in Key Largo.

The group will be asked to approve a final version of the 19-page plan at its Dec. 11 meeting, which outlines goals and objectives for the management review, such as protecting large contiguous habitats, reducing stress from human activities and minimizing conflicts among user groups such as divers and fishermen.

The plan also takes in the Lower Keys backcountry waters of the Florida Keys national wildlife refuges.
Possible new rules for Everglades National Park waters in Florida Bay are also being assessed by the park’s planning staff.

“This is a good time for people to find out who represents them on the Advisory Council so they know where to present their ideas and concerns,” said sanctuary spokeswoman Karrie Carnes.

The Sanctuary Advisory Council’s members — 20 voting members with 20 alternates — are appointed the U.S. Department of Commerce to represent various interest groups, including commercial and recreational fishermen, conservation groups, tourism businesses and more.

Members are expected to break into working groups to review aspects of the new management plan that most directly affect their group.

The newest voting board member, Andy Newman to represent Upper Keys tourism, took his seat this week.

Other members newly approved as alternates are Diane Silvia, submerged cultural resources; Eric Handte, Upper Keys tourism; Julie Anne Floyd, Lower Keys citizen at large; Jim Scholl, conservation and environment; and Justin Bruland, commercial fishing.

The council’s first task will be to review more than 100 pages of comments received during the scoping period for the sanctuary’s new management plan. The comments can be found on the Key Sanctuary’s website, http://floridakeys.noaa.gov/review/scopingcommentssummary.pdf.

The revised plan — the first major overhaul since Congress created the Keys sanctuary in 1990 — will consider whether to add or delete recommendations, and create new marine zoning areas or move existing boundaries, among other issues.

Representatives of a personal-watercraft group and backcountry fishing guides association as scheduled to make presentations at the council’s December meeting.

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