Notes on Zoning Working Group recommendations to the SAC

July 16, 2014

To: KCB F&BC Members

Just a quick note to bring you up to date on the final recommendations of the Zoning and Regulations Working Group for the Sanctuary. I won’t be sending the wonderful notes that Dee Settles took of the meetings, but if anyone wants them I am sure Dee will send them to you. The end result of the many long days of meetings is that the WG is not making any really disruptive recommendations. For the most part they are leaving most regulated areas the way they are. In the Middle Keys, they are leaving things basically the way they are, except they are recommending a small reserve in the area of East Turtle Shoals. The recommendation would mean NO USE by any user group. NO diving, no fishing, no anchoring, but transit would be allowed. There are some general recommendations that the WG is passing along to the SAC. They would like to see more mooring balls in the SPAs, to eliminate any anchoring in those areas. Unknown to most people is the fact that there are dozens of areas in the Sanctuary where trappers are not allowed to trap, but they are not even on the charts, so people can anchor there even though the trappers are prohibited there in order to protect special corals. The WG would like to make some of those areas NO ANCHORING, but that would be difficult to achieve, so the SAC might not do anything about that. They might in the Middle Keys because we have very few of those Trap Exclusion Zones. Maybe they could mark those few. The Upper and Lower Keys have a large number of those exclusion zones so it would be very difficult to mark all of them. They are also recommending that IF the SAC chooses to close more zones, that they make such zones total RESERVES, meaning if you close to one user group you close to all.

Basically in my opinion, the WG has been very conservative and has not made any major changes to affect us negatively. Having said that, you should go to the Sanctuary Website to review the recommendations of the Shallow Water Working Group, and the Coral Restoration Working Group. They have also made recommendations that have been accepted by the SAC. Not being a Shallow Water Fisherman, I have no opinion as to their recommendations.

The real test of the next step is how the SAC accepts the recommendation of the Working Group. The WG will present its recommendations at the SAC meeting on August 19. At that time, they could accept the recommendations or make some changes of their own. I plan on attending that meeting, and would encourage others to attend, because IF the SAC tries to make more aggressive closures, we might want to be there to make public comment.

After that meeting, the recommendations will be passed along to the Sanctuary Staff, then NOAA etc etc, at which times more changes might take place. During the process there will be Economic Impact Studies and more Public Comment opportunities. It appears that any changes that make it through the process will not take effect until about 2017.

If anyone has any questions, don’t hesitate to email me.

Jim Teague