June 17, 2014
The breadbasket of Biscayne Bay isn’t so bountiful anymore.
There are fewer fish. And the ones that remain are smaller. Shrimp trawlers have mowed rolling sea grass meadows to the quick. Sponges are almost gone. If there’s coral, it’s mostly rubble.
So Biscayne National Park is proposing drastic measures: phasing out commercial fishing in park waters, ending the beloved two-day lobster mini season and imposing a host of new restrictions that park managers hope will revive the vast, 270-square-mile underwater wilderness that once teemed with bonefish, snapper, sea turtles and hundreds of other species.
“We recognize that this is a significant change to existing conditions and any time you’re doing that, regardless of the topic, you’re going to get resistance. It’s just human,” said park superintendent Brian Carlstrom, who stressed the plan is “not something we propose to do overnight.”
In fact, the rules evolved at a glacial pace over 15 years as three different superintendents struggled to win support from the state, which manages wildlife in parts of the park, and balance the competing interests of environmental groups, anglers and commercial fishermen.
The park’s general plan, a broader blueprint that will address more-contentious matters — like whether to ban fishing entirely from some areas or weekend parties by boaters that scar flats and kill sea grass — is still in the works.