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Photo: Shawn Verne

Support Expanded Protections for the Florida Keys

Sign on to advocate for a fishing closure at the Western Dry Rocks for 8 months a year during fish spawning, to help reverse the decline of the coral reefs and marine life in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

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In parts of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the hum of life is still audible: colorful fish swim among mangrove channels, dart in the reefs, and glide over sandy flats. In other places, the corals are bleached to ghostly skeletons, fish are scarce, and life is dimming. The health of corals depends on the health of fish: weaken fish populations, and whole reef ecosystems become vulnerable. Protecting the Western Dry Rocks spawning ground from year-round fishing would be a first step to reverse the decline of the coral reefs and marine life in the Florida Keys marine sanctuary. It would send an important message to the regulators to act more urgently to protect this iconic place for all Americans.

Please join us in asking the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to fully protect the Western Dry Rocks for the full 8 months of spawning aggregation, for the health of corals and all marine life.

Our letter to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Secretary of Dept of Environmental Protection, Noah Valenstein

February 2021

Dear Commissioners of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Secretary of Department of Environmental Protection:

Florida’s coral reefs and the Florida Keys marine sanctuary are national treasures enjoyed by millions every year from around the country, but they are struggling with the impacts of climate change, pollution, overfishing, overuse, and coral disease. Some problems are beyond your direct influence, but several, like overfishing and overuse, are under your direct control via fishing regulations, fishing area closures, and setting aside marine protected areas.

One obvious place of high importance to a healthy marine sanctuary and marine life in the Keys is an area called Western Dry Rocks. For about 8 months every year different species of fish gather here in a synchronized mating ritual called a spawning aggregation. But the one square mile spawning area is open to fishing year round. Think of this small but important place like an underwater bar, where all the eligible fish go to mix and mingle . . . except that, like a good horror-movie plot, only a handful of them are left on the dancefloor at the end of the night. No wonder the neighborhood is in bad shape!

That’s why I support a fishing closure at the Western Dry Rocks for 8 months a year while the fish are aggregating there to spawn. It’s just a first step to reverse the decline of the coral reefs and marine life in the Florida Keys marine sanctuary. But it would send an important message to the ecosystem and marine life that help is on the way.

 

Thank you,

 

[Your name here]

 

Nassau Grouper Florida Keys
Photo: Alicia Farrer/NOAA