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New England matters: Marine National Monuments may deny citizens access to the wild.

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As Florida anglers continue battling closures in Biscayne Bay and threats of closures in other parts of the state, our northern-most American angling brothers and sisters find themselves potentially losing access to portions of their home waters, as well.

The federal government is currently considering establishing two Marine National Monuments in New England waters. Proposed by a coalition of some of the country's largest conservation groups including the Conservation Law Foundation, the Natural Resource Defense Council, the Pew Charitable Trusts, Earth Justice, Environment America, and other groups, the Marine National Monuments would protect two areas: Cashes Ledge in the Gulf of Maine and the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts.

National monuments differ from national sanctuaries in that the sanctuaries can be designated either by Congressional action or by NOAA, but monuments can only be designated by Presidential proclamation, as designated by the Antiquities Act of 1906. Traditionally, Presidents used this authority to designate public lands as national monuments, but recent Presidents have also used the act to establish marine national monuments.

There are currently 13 national marine sanctuaries, but there are only four marine national monuments--all located in the Pacific: the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, Midway Islands, Marianas Trench, and Rose Atoll.

Supporters of the proposed New England monuments, which would be located east of Cape Cod, are pushing for the monuments to be designated as "fully protected," meaning that the areas would be closed to recreational fishing, as well as commercial and industrial harvesting.

Fortunately, in 2014, when President Obama expanded the Pacific Remote Island Marine National Monument through Executive Order 12962, he amended the details of the EO by adding EO 13474, which allows for recreational fishing and acknowledges that recreational fishing is a sustainable use of a public resource.

But why should Florida anglers be concerned with what is a relatively small closure in Yankee waters where few of us will ever fish? Because Florida anglers need to be vigilant to the growing mindset that federal actions can be used to close local waters to recreational fishing--as was the case in the Biscayne Bay closures. It's a simple idea, in fact: Policy begets policy.

Wholesale closure of a particular region to recreational fishing--an activity deemed sustainable in such regions--abandons conservation science in favor of knee-jerk cultural positioning of recreational fishing as less than sustainable.

Equally problematic is that such closures deny citizens access to public spaces; this seems rather un-American. It also denies the sheer importance of citizen access to wild places, the need for Americans to connect with and experience those places in order to understand the need to protect them. Most important, these kinds of closures overlook the fact that recreational anglers and boaters con: tribute more to marine conservation than any other part of the population--giving nearly $1.5 billion annually to fund fisheries conservation and habitat restoration.

This kind of conservation funding is particularly important in Florida, as Gary Jennings of Keep Florida Fishing explains, "In Florida, recreational anglers contribute approximately $40 million each year toward the conservation of our state's fisheries through license purchases and special taxes on fishing equipment and motorboat fuel. We want sustainable fisheries that our children's children can enjoy, just like we have."

When federal policies are being engineered to deny recreational anglers access to public waters, all of the nation's anglers need to consider the precedents that are being set at our expense. We need to take action. Jennings spells it out clearly: "A current threat to Florida anglers is Our Florida Reefs which seeks to close off large areas off Southeast Florida to recreational angling and nominate the entire area as a national marine sanctuary among other restrictions. The proposal, which lacks scientific basis, would strip the state's authority to manage our fisheries and lead to unwarranted extensive fishing restrictions. Think it can't happen in Florida? Look at California where approximately 30 percent of the coast has been closed to fishing. It is imperative that recreational anglers educate themselves, go to meetings and provide reasoning why unwarranted closures are bad."

Ultimately, Florida anglers should actively support anglers' rights throughout the country for two primary reasons: first, because together we are stronger, and second, because closures in New England or California or anywhere contribute to a growing culture which vilifies anglers and denies anglers access to public waters.
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Title Annotation:Conservation Front
Author:Dobrin, Sid
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Geographic Code:1U100
Date:May 1, 2016
Words:723
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