I echo a lot of the concerns above, as do most everyone in attendance, that much I think there was a consensus on. There are a few points of reasoning that just do not sit well with me at all in the closure.
1. Why a total closure? The authority on fish in this state (FWC) was opposed to this plan. Say what you will about them, I would think they should make rules in waters under their jurisdiction. A changing of bag limits and or seasons specific to Biscayne NP would do more good in my humble opinion. They already do a good job of educating with signage and free classes.
2. Why did the NPS push a marine reserve from the outset (said by two of the original advisory members) if the final goal was anything but a reserve? If that was the goal then why bother with public lip service. This is a wolf in sheep's clothing plain and simple.
3. Why was there not meeting of the advisory group in the last 10 years? I would think a lot has changed in 10 years, science, use, etc etc. When you think about how long this process went, it amounts to 1 public meeting per year. 1.
4. Broken agreement with FWC. When you come into a MOU with someone you honor it. Biscayne did not do this with FWC, is that because the two parties disagreed on the reserve creation, it would seem the case. This only makes the case the park won't honor other commitments set forth in regards to the closure. This was evidenced by none of the invited speakers being contacted in reference to a provision in the closure that the park will help small businesses affected by the closure. That brought out a good chuckle from the audience.
5. Impact on commercial fishing. The use or lose permits is a non-starter for me, essentially puts a life limit on commercial fishing in the bay. Now imagine all those traps going elsewhere, think that'll impact the reef system much?
6. Leaving the reserve open to divers. Why? If you want to protect the reef then close it completely, I'm a diver, I know divers can be tough on coral.
7. The comparison to the 3 Zones in the Tortugas which FWC was on board with creating. It's an apple's to buffalo comparison. Those zones work for different reasons than the proposed Biscayne zone would.
8. It's public waters. Closing these waters to public access should always be the last resort.
9. The science behind the reasoning. During the question and answer period of the meeting the chair kept referencing this as a disconnection between what the fishermen are seeing and what the parks science is saying. There was never a solid answer provided from the park in regards to this.
10. Lack of Law Enforcement prescence. I go to Biscayne a lot. More often then not I see the LE boats tied up to the dock, not a lot of good being done there. This being said two of my friends are LE's there, I'm sure they'd rather be onon the water than sitting inside. There is no reason to be docked when you could be out educating and enforcing. This point was raised a few times from different attendees.
I wish I had a transcript of the meeting, I'm certain one is available or will be available in the coming days, it was a really good discussion. I did get a kick out of the closing comments of a few members. Great crowd, standing room only and a 50/50 mix of for vs against. Some guy interuppted for 5 minutes but he was older and didn't speak up enough for me to hear him. There was a little chiding by one rep about a flippant attitude of some park staff in regards to this meeting becoming a zoo.