On Friday, January 31, MRAA submitted comments to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) in response for its request for industry comments on its Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary: Restoration Blueprint. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is a significant destination for millions of recreational boaters and anglers each year. MRAA appreciates the importance of balancing resource protection while not needlessly restricting access to beautiful marine resources found in the Florida Keys that families from around the world flock to enjoy. This is why out of all proposed plans, MRAA supports Alternative Plan 2.
Alternative Plan 2 balances access to desired locations in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, while taking significant steps to protect critical natural resources. The current marine zones and management plan, last designed and implemented in 1997, no longer adequately supports the robust ecosystem in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. There is an acute need for a new management plan to ensure that the Sanctuary can be enjoyed by boaters and anglers for generations to come.
MRAA offered comments and feedback to the proposed Restoration Blueprint, including:
Collaborative fisheries management with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission;
Adequately dedicating resources for law enforcement
Supporting the Sanctuary boundary expansion proposed in Alternative 2, including the area to be avoided (ATBA), and the region between the current Tortugas region border of the Sanctuary to the Tortugas South Ecological Reserve
Sanctuary wide regulations, including addressing discharge from cruise ships, addressing derelict vessels, and preserving anglers’ ability to responsibly chum and fish feed.
Opposing strict proposed changes to Marine Zones, while supporting science-backed solutions that would still allow adequate access to important recreation destinations such as Key Largo;
Supporting innovative solutions, and boater education efforts.
MRAA is looking forward to continuing working with NOAA and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary staff to promote environmental resource protection, while not limiting boater and recreational access to the Sanctuary