Tortugas Reserve Sign-On Alert!

Alexander Stone reefkeeper at
Mon Jun 26 08:21:13 EDT 2000

Sign Your Organization On=20
to Show Support for a
Dry Tortugas Ecological Reserve!

Dear Friend of Coral Reefs and Reef Fish:

A fabulous opportunity is now open to protect Florida's best but most
threatened coral reefs.  Final public comment is being accepted to
establish an ecological reserve to protect the fragile marine
environment in the Dry Tortugas.  Your group's endorsement NOW of the
letter below will make a difference in safeguarding this region.

Please add your group to the other organizations asking for the
establishment of a two-part Tortugas Ecological Reserve.  An
unprecedented Working Group of commercial fishers, recreational anglers,
divers, conservationists, and resource managers spent over a year
negotiating a recommendation for the reserve that protects biodiversity
while at the same time minimizing socioeconomic impacts.  The Working
Group's recommendation, which was adopted by unanimous consensus, must
now be adopted by 4 different regulatory agencies.

We need you to sign your group onto the enclosed endorsement letter BY
JUNE 29TH to take advantage of this opportunity to ensure that the
Tortugas Ecological Reserve is created with restrictions on the "taking"
of any marine life and on anchoring.

Read on to review the endorsement letter, and to see and join the list
=2E.. or scroll down to the next *****starred**** section to study the
letter's background rationale.

Thanking you in advance,

Alexander Stone
ReefKeeper International
2809 Bird Ave., PMB 162
Miami, FL 33133
phone: (305) 358-4600
fax: (305) 358-3030
e-mail: a_stone at



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

Jeffery Scott=20
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=20
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. =20

We 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.

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. =20

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.=20

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:=20
=95       protect biodiversity;=20
=95       protect a diversity of critical habitats;=20
=95       protect ecological structure, function, and integrity;=20
=95       capture a suite of habitats critical to productivity;=20
=95       have influence beyond its boundaries;=20
=95       be able to function to replenish marine populations;=20
=95       be relatively unimpacted;=20
=95       have simplified boundaries for users and enforcement;=20
=95       maximize socioeconomic benefits; =20
=95       be no take;=20
=95       and allow non-consumptive use. =20

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)


The tropical waters of the Caribbean blend with the temperate waters of
the Gulf of Mexico creating a phenomenal treasure trove of biodiversity
in the Dry Tortugas.  The Tortugas are a valuable "source" area,
providing larvae and juvenile fish for the rest of the Florida Keys.=20
Lush coral forests and seagrass beds have remained relatively untouched
by humans, since the Dry Tortugas lie far away from populated areas.

However, increased commercial and recreational fishing, sport diving,
and tourism have resulted in threats of future fish depletion and
habitat damage to the Dry Tortugas marine environment.  Only with input
from concerned groups such as yours will these threats be minimized.

In order to get all interested parties involved in the design of the
reserve, the Tortugas 2000 Working Group was convened by the Florida
Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) to recommend locations for
establishing a Dry Tortugas Ecological Reserve.  The 25-member Working
Group was composed of representatives from federal and state agencies,
scientists, commercial fishers, recreational angling, sport diving, and
environmental communities.  The group was charged with designing an
ecological reserve that protects the marine environment and minimizes
economic impacts.

Through unanimous consensus, the Tortugas 2000 Working Group came
together with a "can-live with" approach to make sure that the
ecological reserve would meet its goals without having unacceptable
effects on each Working Group members business, industry, or interest.=20
The Working Group is proposing a reserve encompassing 185 square
nautical miles.

The proposed Dry Tortugas Ecological Reserve is actually in two parts -
Tortugas North and Tortugas South.  Tortugas North, approximately 125
square nautical miles, includes high profile coral reefs such as
Sherwood Forest.  Tortugas South, approximately 60 square nautical
miles, includes highly productive spawning sites such as Riley's Hump.=20
Together, these two areas include valuable coral reef, seagrass, and
mangrove habitat that serve as spawning and nursery grounds for many
economically important species.  All areas of the reserve would be
off-limits to all fishing and anchoring.

Implementation of the ecological reserve is an involved process
involving many governmental agencies.  Because the Tortugas 2000 Working
Group looked at the ecological importance of the area rather than the
politics, the proposed ecological reserve crosses four jurisdictions -
FKNMS, Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the National Park Service.  Each
agency must approve the boundaries for the Tortugas Ecological Reserve
to become a reality.

Please take a few minutes to read the endorsement letter above.  Then
just phone (305-358-4600) , fax (305-358-3030), or e-mail
(reefkeeper at ReefKeeper International with your okay to
add your group to the letter.  It's that easy.

Thank in you in advance for you help.

Alexander Stone
ReefKeeper International
2809 Bird Ave., PMB 162
Miami, FL 33133
phone: (305) 358-4600
fax: (305) 358-3030
e-mail: a_stone at

More information about the Coral-list-old mailing list