Tortugas Reserve Endorsing Groups -- Attention!

Alexander Stone reefkeeper at
Thu Jul 6 08:44:42 EDT 2000

Dear All:

If you signed on your group to the Tortugas Reserve Endorsement Letter
copied below, but your group name does not appear in the following list,
please RESUBMIT your endorsement request now to
reefkeeper at

We apologize that a glitch in our ISP server caused responses to not be
received if they were sent to other email addresses posted on our
original endorsement request emails.

Thanks so much,

Alexander Stone
ReefKeeper International


American Littoral Society**American Oceans Campaign**Biodiversity Legal
Foundation**Boston University Marine Program**Broward County Sea Turtle
Conservation Project**Center for Marine Conservation**Diving Locker
Divers**EcoFlorida Magazine**Environmental Defense**Fathom 5 Marine and
Coastal Research**Fish Forever**Fish Unlimited**Florida Institute of
Oceanography**Friends of Virgin Islands National Park**Gulf Restoration
Network**Hawaii Audubon Society**Living Oceans Society**National Audubon
Society**Natural Resources Defense Council**Ocean Research & Education
Foundation**Ocean Watch**Paradise Island Divers**ReefKeeper
International**Reefology Society**Sierra Club Florida
Chapter**Southpoint Divers**Texas Marine Education
Association**Tri-County PET LLC**University of Miami Marine
Program**Western Pacific Fisheries Coalition**World Wildlife Fund

Billy Causey
Florida Keys National
Marine Sanctuary
PO Box 500368
Marathon, Florida  33050

Jeffery Scott 
National Park Service
Everglades National Park
4001 State Road 9336
Homestead, FL 33034

Dr. Robert Shipp, Chair
Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council
3018 U.S. Highway 301 North, Suite 1000
Tampa, Florida  33619-2266

Commissioner Julie Morris, Chair
Florida Fish and Wildlife 
Conservation Commission
620 S. Meridian St.
Tallahassee, Florida  32399-1600

Dear Agency Decision Makers:

We, the undersigned (number) groups representing (number) members,
respectfully request that the above referenced regulatory agencies
approve the establishment of the Dry Tortugas Ecological Reserve as
proposed by the Tortugas 2000 Working Group and unanimously endorsed by
the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council.  

We request that your agencies approve your respective preferred
boundary  alternatives to create a Dry Tortugas Ecological Reserve that
includes a 125-square-mile-plus Tortugas North reserve and a
60-square-mile Tortugas South reserve, with the taking of any marine
organisms prohibited in both areas.

Located 70 miles west of Key West and over 140 miles from the mainland,
the coral reefs in the Tortugas are isolated from land runoff, resulting
in the cleanest, clearest waters in the Florida Keys. The marine
resources of the Tortugas are the crown jewel of the Sanctuary, with the
highest coral coverage and the healthiest coral in the region, high
biodiversity, high productivity and important spawning sites.  

The Tortugas support a thriving seabird population, including the only
roosting population of magnificent frigate birds in North America. Of
great significance, the Tortugas are located at a crossroads of major
ocean currents, which carry larvae of fish, lobster and other creatures
downstream to replenish populations in the Florida Keys and beyond. 

While the Tortugas are in relatively good condition, threats are on the
increase. Fishing pressure has increased dramatically.  Over 100
commercial fishing vessels and many recreational fishers work the ocean
environment outside of the Dry Tortugas National Park. Divers converge
on the area to view its breathtaking coral reefs.  Visitor use at the
Dry Tortugas National Park has doubled in the last three years,
increasing to 60,000 visitors per year. The Sanctuary has prohibited
anchoring by freighters on the lush reefs of Tortugas Bank, but this
practice still threatens other parts of the region.  All of these
factors have resulted in threats of depleted fish populations and
habitat damage.

In an initiative called Tortugas 2000, a 25-member working group
representing commercial fishing, recreational angling, diving,
conservation, science, citizens-at-large, and government agencies used
the best available scientific and socioeconomic information to develop
a  boundary and regulatory proposal for the Ecological Reserve.  The
proposed Tortugas Ecological Reserve is a product of consensus by
twenty-five diverse representatives of every constituency concerned with
the reserve.  The Tortugas 2000 Working Group unanimously recommended
reserve boundaries that would: 
•       protect biodiversity; 
•       protect a diversity of critical habitats; 
•       protect ecological structure, function, and integrity; 
•       capture a suite of habitats critical to productivity; 
•       have influence beyond its boundaries; 
•       be able to function to replenish marine populations; 
•       be relatively unimpacted; 
•       have simplified boundaries for users and enforcement; 
•       maximize socioeconomic benefits;  
•       be no take; 
•       and allow non-consumptive use.  

In June 1999, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory
Council, also composed of members representing users of the Sanctuary
resources such as fishers, divers, scientists, and tourism officials,
reviewed the recommendation of the Working Group.  The Sanctuary
Advisory Council unanimously endorsed the proposal.

The proposed Dry Tortugas Ecological Reserve would consist of 2
sections, Tortugas North and Tortugas South, totaling 185 square miles.
Tortugas North is a 125-square-mile area west of the Dry Tortugas that
lies primarily within the Sanctuary, with some portions falling under
State of Florida control.  Tortugas North would include the lush and
pristine coral reefs of Sherwood Forest, and the extremely productive
northern half of Tortugas Bank.  In addition, Tortugas North would
include 30 square miles of important mangrove, seagrass and shallow
coral reefs inside Dry Tortugas National Park.

Tortugas South is a 60-square-mile area south of the Dry Tortugas that
is managed by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.  Tortugas
South would give year-round protection to Riley's Hump, an important
spawning site for snapper and grouper species.  Tortugas South would
also reach south to include valuable deepwater habitats for golden crab,
tilefish and snowy grouper.

The Working Group recommended that both sections be completely
"no-take", with all fishing and collecting prohibited.  Other
regulations, such as restrictions on anchoring, would mirror those
established for the existing Western Sambos Ecological Reserve.  Only by
truly preserving the flora and fauna in this area will the ecosystem be
able to thrive for generations to come.

We look forward to your support for our request that your agencies
approve the preferred alternative to create a Dry Tortugas Ecological
Reserve, to include a 125-square-mile Tortugas North reserve and a
60-square-mile Tortugas South reserve, with the taking of any marine
organisms prohibited in both areas.

Respectfully submitted,

(endorsing organizations will be listed alphabetically)

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