Support for Special Marine Zone to Protect Spawning Habitat

Conservation, Uncategorized6 Comments

rodney's managrove snapper

As a member of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Snapper/Grouper Advisory Panel, it’s important to address the implementation of the Snapper Grouper Amendment 36 – Spawning Special Management Zones (SMZs).

Over the past four years, I’ve listened to, read and studied in-depth testimony discussing the effectiveness, locations, and implementation of SMZs. A wide sector of user groups; including marine scientist, researchers, data managers, conservationist, bureaucrats and legacy commercial, recreational and for-hire fishers has delivered this information.

Sanctuaries protecting spawning habitat for snapper/grouper make common sense. They improve fishing, by protecting the cradle of future stocks. They improve the access to plentiful fish. Take for an example, the extraordinary rebound Florida’s mutton snapper fishery being directly connected to the creation of the Riley’s Hump, an SMZ at the far tip of the Florida Keys. Anglers have benefitted greatly because this critical spawning habitat has been protected, and now Riley’s has become a prolific fish producing heaven.

I strongly support this process. I’m also a strong advocate of wise regulations designed to improve and protect the future of our marine fisheries. With an ever expanding fishing population and limited marine resources, it is critical to take immediate action to protect better and monitor those special spawning sites for snapper and grouper and provide funds to enforce these SMZs.

Like our parks on land, ocean sanctuaries make common sense and because of this, I support the Snapper Grouper Amendment 36 – Spawning Special Management Zones.

Perhaps you want to see proof; I suggest you take the time to investigate the work of marine scientist and research developer, Dr. Will Heyman. Pay special attention to the research and implementation of SMZ in Belize, and how these sanctuaries protect spawning aggregations of snapper, grouper and other reef fishes. In Belize, commercial fishermen love Dr. Heyman for the work he has done helping them establish SMZs in their areas.

The next time you hear someone talking negatively about marine protected areas, remember, properly managed sanctuaries make common sense. They can also make fishing better for very large areas and improve the access to plentiful grouper and snapper by protecting special spawning sites.

6 Comments on “Support for Special Marine Zone to Protect Spawning Habitat”

  1. Rico

    As a former member of the SAFMC, MPA Committee, I was a big supporter of SMZ for obvious reasons. Now I have my concerns that they do not produce the results as forecast. When the 96 square mile HAPC, Oculina Bank was created, the scientists told us to give it a few years for the spill over to significantly improve fishing outside the closed to reef fishing area. It never happened! The primary reason was bandits continued to illegally fish in the closed area due to an almost complete lack of law enforcement. Today, almost 20 years later we are still waiting for the spill over! With proper law enforcement, I believe it may have made a big difference. SMZ are only as good as the protection by the law. The excuse for lack of enforcement is always a lack of funding!!!

  2. Cam

    Protecting fish where they spawn make sense. I agree too with you, Rico. Enforcement, and, I might add, education among anglers are vital to success.

  3. Rodney

    Agreed Gentlemen! We must learn how to insist on better enforcement. Would money from an offshore fishing lic. be an appropriate step?

  4. Rico

    No Rodney, it’s tough enough for offshore fishing guides to make a living. With the frequent closed season for reef fish, ever increasing restrictions on palegic species, and escalating cost of everything I would not support an additional financial burden. I wish I could point to a source of revenue.

  5. Michael

    I think the point about the Oculina Bank is also why a SMZ isn’t the right answer. IMHO, the Indian River Lagoon should become designated as a National Marine Sanctuary.

    The IRL and associated local ocean (perhaps out to and including the Oculina Bank) should be protected waters. From our cherished recreational areas to the fisheries supported by its fish production, the IRL is a jewel in our own back yard. The fact that its in such great peril is not lost on many of us, like the oysters, clams and of late, the recent die-offs in birds, dolphins and manatees.

    Having the IRL designated as a National Marine Sanctuary will protect the life and livelihood of all concerned, from the macro-invertebrates to man.

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