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: https://floridakeys.noaa.gov/blueprint/
I just read that the proposed Florida Keys Marine
Blueprint would limit access to Carysfort, Sombrero and Sand Key reefs
to Blue Star commercial
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
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.