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Old 14-09-2019, 12:10   #1
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Public access to Florida reefs threatened

I wrote the following to the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary re: their blueprint for restoration. For more information about their plan that would eliminate public access to some reefs with the only access being to commercial operators go to:

Superintendent Fangman,
I just read that the proposed Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary Restoration Blueprint would limit access to Carysfort, Sombrero and Sand Key reefs to Blue Star commercial operators.

I visit Florida in part because my brother lives there and in part because I like to sail there. The Restoration Blueprint will limit my options when visiting the Marathon area. In fact, there will be no reason for stopping in that area.

I can understand that there is a need to address damage to these underwater environments. But your approach is extreme and benefits commercial enterprise at the expense of the public. That is not fair and should not happen.

What bothers me most is that your extreme method of protection essentially becomes a ďpay to playĒ scenario. The only way to visit this public treasure is to pay a commercial operator. That is not right. It is not fair. If you want to protect the reef, make if fair for everyone, and donít even allow the commercial operators. I rather see that because at least I donít feel like Iím being singled out when I am very careful and have never grounded my boat.

Your plan would exclude a mother and father from taking their two children on their 18 foot outboard to the reefs where the children will get a glimpse of the beauty that needs to be protected. It will make them want to be environmental conscious as they grow older.

From your website it sounds like groundings are the problem. There are ways to deal with this that would not eliminate the publicís access.
As an example, at Sombrero Reef there are only 3 markers shown on charts at the corners of the area. Thatís clearly inadequate for the protection you are looking for. Hereís one model that can be used to remedy this:

On Virgin Gorda in the BVI, at the Baths, which is a major tourist destination from both land and sea, there are mooring balls (first come first serve). Between the mooring balls and shore there are buoys with lines and floats between them. No boats, even dinghies are allowed ashore. You can take a dinghy as close as the buoys/lines, but must swim in from there to visit the caves at the Baths. This could work well at Sombrero and I assume other reefs.

You could also move the mooring balls, or add more, farther out from the reef thereby focusing boat traffic farther from the reef. Then, as done on Norman Island in the BVI at The Caves, place mooring balls closer to the reef with lines between them for dinghies to tie up to. This is not ideal for people with small boats, e.g. 18 footers, because they donít normally carry a dinghy, but it describes an option that has been used successfully in another location.

The last idea I want to present is one that is used at Buck Island National Monument (just off the shore of St. Croix). They use a permit system and while it is a bit of a hassle and requires planning in advance, it works. You need a permit to anchor at Buck Island. You need to take your dinghy into the Lagoon to snorkel where you pick up a mooring ball. If your boat is small enough you can get a day permit to enter the Lagoon and pick up a mooring ball.

A permit system would have the advantage that there would never be too many boats. While I think more buoys with lines and floats around the reef is sufficient, the addition of permits further protects the area by limiting the number of boats. I also like the idea of larger boats mooring farther away and using a dinghy to access a line closer to the reef where they can tie the dinghy.

Our national forest/parks have for many, many years suffered from overuse. The solution was not to exclude the public but rather to limit the number of visitors through permits and institute rules and requirement to protect the land and water. There is no reason why the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary canít be managed in a similar situation and thereby reduce damage to the reefs.


Marcus Libkind
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Old 14-09-2019, 12:17   #2
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Re: Public access to Florida reefs threatened

I hope that you will write emails to: Also, post to other forums that you visit. I suspect that few people know about this potential halt to public access ... what they are proposing is "pay to play."
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Old 14-09-2019, 12:30   #3
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Re: Public access to Florida reefs threatened

The commercial charters do more damage than regular public. I have seen people standing on reefs from commercial charter boats. O the horrors
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Old 14-09-2019, 13:20   #4
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Re: Public access to Florida reefs threatened

That's an excellent point.

I think that they probably think that the charters will (1) not run aground, and (2) will educate their clients. But I suspect that many of their clients are out for a day of fun and really have no connection to the water that they spend such little time on.

I hope that you will write a letter/email and tell your fellow boaters to do the same. Only through voicing an opinion is there a chance to stop a folly like this.
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Old 15-09-2019, 20:41   #5
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Re: Public access to Florida reefs threatened

While it was mentioned in the subtext that the "Blue Star " admittance only/no anchoring was their preferred map scenario the information claimed that no decision had been made. The public meetings were mostly upcoming.

Additionally, there is an invitation to comment by letter, online or in person until January 31, 2020. I found the contact info at the bottom of the "overview " page.

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Old 16-09-2019, 02:51   #6
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Re: Public access to Florida reefs threatened

Wonder how much the commercial operators will have to pay in order to play? Anymore Municipality or Govt. entity is just another word for Mafia. Not saying policies that strongly encourage good stewardship should not be in place. But as you stated in your letter, there are positive ways to do this that will cost far less tax money and not require additional enforcement which is always the result of more rules and more laws.

I disagree with the permit system somewhat because it takes us back to pay to play. The bureaucracy already has funding from the tax slaves. Why penalize the plebs any further. They already pay enough. Perhaps a maximum boat size and additional mooring balls for larger vessels with tenders? There are many options for making it a win win for everyone.

You can tell these people are extremist in the first three paragraphs of the first page of the link. I think you're on the right track and hope more folks with common sense will reach out in an effort to quench their thirst for eliminating access to the commoners.
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Old 16-09-2019, 05:18   #7
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Re: Public access to Florida reefs threatened

I will be commenting on this to NOAA. It's interesting to note that the technical data and the list of preparers is not linked on the web page. The Purpose and Need section has no statement of purpose or need, but simply a high level statement of what they propose to do. Limiting access to the reefs to commercial operators to preserve them is a joke. My observation over 50 years of diving in the keys is that the commercial operators are probably the most destructive users on the reef. In shallow areas I have seen snorkelers standing on live coral many times while the boat operators do nothing. My wife did lobster research in the keys for many years including monitoring the impact of divers on the reef during the lobster mini-season. Commercial operators were the worst offenders. They dumped large numbers of people in the water who went into a hunting frenzy and did all kinds of damage to the reefs. Most of these "Tourists" have no idea what live coral looks like. They are told not to touch the coral, but since they don't know what coral looks like they think they are just standing on a rock.

Using the Carysfort reef proposal as an example, note that the only alternative where they give any reason or justification is for alternative 4, but that is not the preferred alternative. Alternative 3 is the preferred alternative and it's not even mentioned in the description. This of course the one that turns the reef over to commercial operators only. If these people worked for me I would fire them.

I'll save the rest of my rant for NOAA.
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Old 16-09-2019, 08:59   #8
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Re: Public access to Florida reefs threatened

Email reply.
Thank you for your email and your interest and participation in our efforts to review the regulations and marine zones in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Specific to the issue you raise related to the proposal for limited entry in select Sanctuary Preservation Areas, I offer the following context and clarification, as I think there is some misunderstanding regarding what is being proposed:

The idea of limited use came out of the public process as many people commented that they believed there were areas that were overcrowded and they recommended we consider ways to limit use. Currently the proposal speaks to commercial operator access: in the proposal, in order for commercial operators to access the limited entry areas, they would need to be a part of the Blue Star Program. Our intention was to offer one way to limit access to commercial operators. If that is not the right approach, we'd be interested to hear your ideas on how to do that.

Regarding local use: our proposal doesn't offer any specifics on if and how that would be addressed, which is why I think many people are interpreting it to mean we intend to totally exclude the public from these three limited entry areas. That was not our intention. How and if individual users’ access would be limited is open for public input and ideas. We welcome input from the public on the concept of reducing overall use and potential impacts in some areas of the sanctuary - and if so - how do we effectively and fairly do that?

We invite you to provide public comment either online using the federal eRulemaking portal, (use docket number NOAA-NOS-2019-0094) or by mail: Sarah Fangman, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, 33 East Quay Rd, Key West, FL 33040.

Alternatively, you can come to our Sanctuary Advisory Council meetings, where we will be taking oral public comment. Those meetings are October 15 at the Marriott Beachside in Key West or December 10 in the Key Largo area (exact location still being confirmed). Both are scheduled from 1-9, public comment will likely be later in the meeting.

We will also be hosting information sessions for people to learn more about the proposals and submit questions (we'll try to answer as many as we can during the session). The information sessions are: September 23 at Key West High School, September 30 at Marathon Middle High School, and October 7 at Coral Shores High School. All sessions are 6-9 p.m. and provide the community an opportunity to learn more and ask questions.

I hope that helps. I've copied Beth Dieveney, who has been the lead on the development of the draft proposals in case you have further questions.

Thank you for taking the time to provide your thoughts, we sincerely appreciate it.
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Old 16-09-2019, 11:12   #9
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Re: Public access to Florida reefs threatened

Nice answer, thanks for posting.

I'll try not to be cynical and hope that they really will act with a view toward what's best for the reef, and not what brings in the most campaign contributions.
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Old 17-09-2019, 08:00   #10
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Re: Public access to Florida reefs threatened

We as humans do not deserve our natural resources. We have abused, ruined, and sold what God gave us. We are coming to the point that free reign over these areas must be restricted because we will destroy them.

Letting the commercial interests in there is even worse for our resources. This current administration (or lack of it) leans totally toward business and thinks its great to destroy our resources and landmarks in the name of profit.

There is coming a time and it is now that we have to make choices to save our resources and environment and it is time to choose, Economy or Environment.

We have killer whales here and much like your reef's, there are hundreds of whale watch boats pursuing our starving and dying local residents. The State has a 2 week study of the problem from every expert...their findings: hatch more inferior salmon but gosh, don't stop the multi million dollar tourist attraction. What are they going to do when our whales are dead?

Step back people Conserve and Protect.
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Old 17-09-2019, 11:13   #11
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Re: Public access to Florida reefs threatened

Originally Posted by 4palmer View Post
... Letting the commercial interests in there is even worse for our resources. This current administration (or lack of it) leans totally toward business and thinks its great to destroy our resources and landmarks in the name of profit...
Did you read Sarahís (PLANET EXPRESS) post #8?
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