More on Tortugas Reserve

Precht, Bill Bprecht at
Thu Jul 5 10:50:16 EDT 2001

Coral - list

more good news out of Florida
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New reserve simply 'awesome'
Tortugas protection takes effect

By Kevin Wadlow
Senior Staff Writer
kwadlow at

Ocean pioneer Sylvia Earle brushed a wet lock off her forehead and smiled
"This is a good start," declared the world-renowned explorer. "It's like
being present at the dedication of Yellowstone National Park."

Creation of the Tortugas Ecological Reserves - now the largest no-take area
off North American shores, and one of the largest in the world - ranks with
the founding of the first national park, said Earle.

"A great, great day," said Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Superintendent Billy Causey. "This one is for all our grandkids. These
reefs will be here for them to see."

The sanctuary research vessel Irene tethered to a new mooring buoy at a
Tortugas Bank reef called Awesome for Sunday's observance of the two marine
protected areas.

"Lives up to its name, doesn't it?" said Earle, describing the variety of
fish and coral pinnacles on the double-sided bank reef.

At a combined 151 square nautical miles, Tortugas North and Tortugas South
now form the largest no-fishing area off North America, and one of the
largest on the planet.

Earle joined Causey, federal fishery biologist James Bohnsack and Laddie
Akins of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation to cut a ceremonial

Volunteer divers from REEF and Florida Keys Community College then hit the
water to conduct a fish census as part of the Great American Fish Count.
Results will help scientists monitor expected changes in the area's fish


The Tortugas Working Group, which involved more than two dozen people in a
three-year planning process for the reserves, created a model for consensus-
building that other sanctuaries seek to emulate, Causey said.

Before Sunday, the 18 Sanctuary Preservation Areas at Keys reefs and the
Western Sambos Ecological Reserve protected a total of 19 square miles from
fishing and collecting pressure.

"Those areas, as small as they are, made the Tortugas Ecological Reserves
possible," said Causey. "People can see the differences and benefits."

Bohnsack, a National Marine Fisheries Service biologist, has campaigned for
more than a decade to create no-fishing areas along the nation's coast.

"Nothing creates acceptance like success," Bohnsack said. "There has been a
lot of opposition to [protected areas], but every major fishery regulation
ever adopted has been controversial. People originally said they couldn't
live with bag limits, now but people realize the benefits."

Bohnsack predicted that within a few years, when fish grow to large sizes
and swim out of the ecological reserves, anglers will understand the role
that such areas can play.

The National Park Service has proposed plans to designate another 46 square
miles of Tortugas waters as "research natural areas," where fishing and
collecting also would be banned. That proposal likely is six months to a
year away from becoming effective, according to a Park Service spokesman.

Visitors will be allowed to fish in areas near the Fort Jefferson anchoring
field. <end>
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