CMC Action Alert: Tortugas 2000 Scoping

holtzd%fkeys at holtzd%fkeys at
Fri Oct 23 09:26:46 EDT 1998

A Chance To Protect The Dry Tortugas 
October 16, 1998

The relatively pristine ocean world at Dry Tortugas-its clear, clean
waters-suggests another time as well when coral reefs, fish, shark,
lobster and other marine life were less imperiled by humans.  All of
that, unfortunately,  is changing.  In reality, this most distant and
splendid outpost of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is under
threat.  Fishing  pressure in the Dry Tortugas area is exploding.  An
opportunity in 1997 to protect critical areas outside the National Park
was delayed but  now we can provide protection both in and outside the
Park.  Over the next several weeks and months, however, we have an
unprecedented-perhaps our final-opportunity to protect Florida's last
truly wild ocean place.


Along the Florida Reef Tract, the largest in the United States, lie some
of the world's best known, most heavily used, and most threatened coral
reefs. Yet beyond Key West, where the road ends, the undeveloped islands
and of the Marqueses and the spectacular coral reefs of the Tortugas
stretch another 70 miles westward.  Creating a Tortugas Ecological
Reserve to keep these reefs intact is critical to their preservation and
for the restoration of the entire Keys reef tract. 

The Dry Tortugas lie at the extreme end of these exquisite island
chains, protected from the serious water quality threats facing other
Florida and Caribbean reefs.

Until recently, the area's remoteness and prohibition on commercial
fishing inside Dry Tortugas National Park also provided protection from
over-exploitation. However, fishing pressure from commercial vessels
outside the national park and recreational users throughout the area has
increased dramatically in recent years. Park use has doubled in just
three years-from 30,000 to 60,000 visitors-and up to 100 commercial
fishing boats now work the area outside the park.

Declining fishing conditions upstream in the Florida Keys, better boats,
improved navigation, and more efficient gear have all added up to fewer
fish and damage to habitat in the Dry Tortugas. 

While reef fish, lobster and other invertebrates in the Dry Tortugas
remain healthier than those in other areas of the Keys, increased
fishing pressure poses a real threat.  A "no-take" marine ecological
reserve in the Dry Tortugas is the only way we can ensure real
protection. A well-designed Tortugas reserve would help restore reefs
and fish downstream throughout the Keys.

Marine reserves are special ocean areas dedicated to non-consumptive
use, where natural, intact, marine communities and ecosystems flourish
and human disturbance is minimized.  

When designed properly, marine reserves can conserve biodiversity,
protect spawning stocks of fish, replenish areas outside the reserve,
protect against a New England-like fisheries collapse, and ensure
ecosystem integrity by maintaining marine life in natural conditions.
With 13 of 15 commercially targeted reef fish in the Keys overfished, we
need the protection only a marine reserve can provide.


Because the Dry Tortugas area covers the 100-square-mile Dry Tortugas
National Park, and an equally large area of the Florida Keys National
Marine Sanctuary, the Center for Marine Conservation  has been
encouraging both agencies to work cooperatively to develop a marine

Through meetings, public hearings and with assistance from a 22-member
Working Group, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) and the State of Florida-through the sanctuary-will over the next
year develop a proposed marine reserve for the Dry Tortugas.

At the same time, the National Park Service is looking for ways to
handle extraordinary visitor growth and increased activities at the Dry
Tortugas National Park and is participating with the sanctuary in
planning sessions for the reserve.

The agencies have agreed to cooperate in getting public comment and are
being encouraged to jointly establish a marine reserve in the Dry

The first public comment will come at Scoping Meetings in late October
and November in Florida.  These meetings are to identify important
issues agency officials should weigh in developing a marine reserve.
After developing different boundary choices for the reserve, the
Sanctuary will hold public hearings and then make a decision on which
reserve alternative should be adopted.  Public hearings are tentatively
planned for Spring, 1999.  

You can get more information on the Tortugas 2000 process through the

Making It Happen

Establishing a Tortugas Ecological Reserve by the year 2000 hinges on
actions ordinary people take today.  The Center for Marine Conservation
is working hard to make sure a Tortugas marine reserve is established.
But all of us-divers, naturalists, fishermen and parents who want to
leave something for their children-must get involved if we are to
protect Florida's last wild ocean place. 

Please write the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the National
Park Service:

          Miki Steube
          National Park Service
          Denver Service Center
          12795 West Alameda Parkway
          Denver, CO  80225-9901

          Ben Haskell
          Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
          P.O. Box 500368
          Marathon, FL  33050

Please tell them:

*    You support protecting the Dry Tortugas with a no-take marine
reserve in the Sanctuary and the National Park.
*    You want a marine reserve in the Dry Tortugas that is diverse
enough to protect a range of coral reef and other habitats.
*    You want a marine reserve in the Dry Tortugas large enough to
benefit fisheries.
*    You want a marine reserve in the Dry Tortugas that is strictly

Or attend one or more Tortugas 2000 meetings being held by the Florida
Keys National Marine Sanctuary to take your comment. Someone will be at
each of the meetings to assist you.  The meeting schedule:

*    October 27, 1998    U.S. Department of Commerce, Main
Auditorium, 14st and Constitution Ave., Washington, DC
*    October 29, 1998    Ft. Myers Exhibition Hall, 1320 Hendry
Street, Ft. Myers, Florida
*    November 9, 1998     Holiday Inn Beachside Conference Room,
3841 N. Roosevelt Blvd, Key West, Florida
*    November 10, 1998  Marathon High School cafeteria, 350 Sombrero
Beach Road, Marathon, Florida
*    November 17, 1998 Miami, Florida FIU Graham Center, SW 8th
Street & SW 107th Avenue

For additional information call:  

David Holtz, Center for Marine Conservation, Florida Keys Office,

Or call CMC if you are interested in visiting the Dry Tortugas to see
this special place.
Thank you for your help.

More information about the Coral-list-old mailing list