Impact of Fla. marine reserve measured

KEY WEST, Fla., Feb. 5 (UPI) — Both fish and commercial and recreational fishermen have benefited from “no-take” protections in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, officials say.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has evaluated how the Tortugas Ecological Reserve in the sanctuary has affected the living marine resources of the surrounding region and the people whose livelihoods are connected to them.

NOAA reported overfished species like grouper, yellowtail and snapper have increased in numbers and size since the reserve was designated in 2001, even as commercial catches of reef fish in the surrounding region increased and no financial losses were experienced by regional commercial or recreational fishers.

“The findings in this report are good news for NOAA management efforts to enhance fisheries and other natural resources in the Florida Keys,” Holly Bamford, NOAA assistant administrator for the National Ocean Service, said.

Key West commercial fishery landings had an estimated value of $56 million in 2011, up from $40 million in 2001, NOAA said, while ocean recreation and tourism support approximately 33,000 jobs in the Florida Keys.

“This research shows that marine reserves and economically viable fishing industries can coexist,” Sean Morton, sanctuary superintendent, said. “The health of our economy is tied to the health of our oceans. They are not mutually exclusive.”

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