Dry Tortugas National Park management
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary management
Government regulation of commercial and recreational fishing
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
27 Jun 2001
- Key West
- 24.55917 -81.78403
- SONY TCD-D8
Stereo=1; X-Y Stereo; Neumann RSM 190 through Sonosax preamp into Sony TCD8
NPR/NGS RADIO EXPEDITIONS
Log of DAT #: 1
Engineer: Leo Del Aguila
Date: June 27, 2001
0:00-1:58 Leo does a check on the equipment and introduces the log.
Tell me where you live.
2:22 Rick Cook - Public Affairs Officer - I live in south Miami, approximately halfway between Homestead, Florida and downtown Miami. I work ten miles west of Homestead at the headquarters of Everglades National Park.
Alright, we'll go ahead and start. Just say who you are and what you represent here.
My name is Rick Cook and I'm the public affairs officer for both the National Parks, being Everglades, and Dry Tortugas, which we administer from Everglades.
Tell me what is the regulatory situation right now at Dry Tortugas? There is this marine ecological reserve which runs into some -It must be very confusing I think for listeners. It's not that easy for me to figure out and I've r4ead this study. There are so many conflicting groups here and perhaps conflicting is not the right word, but overlapping. So what exactly is the situation there?
3 :24-4:29 Rick
Well, south Florida has multiple jurisdictions for land management both at the federal and the state levels, particularly as it relates to conservation areas. The National Park service manages four parks down here: three National Parks -Everglades, Biscayne(sp?), and Dry Tortugas, and the Big Cypress National Preserve. The Fish and Wildlife Services manages over ten national wildlife refuges. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is under the department of Commerce. Each one of these brings its own management purpose and approach and quite often that is mandated by the Congress. For the national Park Service that approach is really much more strictly on the side of resource protection and resource preservation. The Park Service is told by Congress, allow for reasonable opportunities for visible use and enjoyment, but openly in such manner and by such means as will leave the resources unimpaired for the use by future generations.
In addition in the case of Dry Tortugas National Park the 1992 law is very specific about the variety of services for which the park was established. It relates primarily and overwhelming to preserving the resources of a pristine and subtropical marine environment.
There's not place, no other park like this, is there? At least no tin the continental United States.
No, not in the U.S. Well, in the continental United Sates. I think the U.S. Virgin Islands probably has similar resource characteristics.
What about the plan now for this ecological reserve which would restrict even sports fishing in part of this area. What are you running into there?
What we have come up with as a result of the planning process is what's called a research natural area. That is provided for under law and under parks service policy as a place to allow for benchmark studies. These would be a control area against which we can measure changes in other areas of the park. We do not allow manipulative research. We don't allow for consumptive uses. So it's not just about fishing. It's about a variety of things that will be restricted and in some cases prohibited.
But aren't there places in the park where you can go fishing now?
Yes, absolutely, right now you can fish anywhere. (plane overhead) Under the plan the research natural area would take up about 46% of the park. That leaves 54% that is still open for fishing. In fact tour studies have indicated that 2/3rds of the recreational fishing is done within 1 mile of Ft. Jefferson, and none of that is being impacted by this.
Oh really? So that's outside the area?
Right. And many people prefer to fish in the sea-grass beds near the islands. We have seven islands, five of the islands are not affected by this research natural area. So the impact we believe is not as severe as some people might first imagine.
There is some question as to whether or not the park service is going to adopt these regulations?
Well the plan, we have completed the planning process and it's ready to be signed. It's currently under review at the Department of the Interior.
Had you planned to go ahead with this? Is this environmental backtracking on the part of the current administration?
I don't think there is any evidence of that at this point. They have been reviewing a number of regulatory ad policy decisions as part of the transition, so we're hopeful that'll be approved.
If it is approved, what difference would that make to a visitor out there to the Dry Tortugas National Park?
We think it is not going to make a huge amount ofdifference. The majority of the people going out there to the park, and by the way the visitation out there has increased dramatically from 18 thousand in 1984 to 95 thousand last year. So we have concerns about that. Typically they go by commercial ferry service or they go by seaplanes. When they get there they don't have the means to transit the park. They basically are located on Garden Key. They can see the historic Ft. Jefferson; they can snorkel, swim, and fish from that immediate area. What we're going to do in the plan is to give a concession license on a competitive license to one ferry operator who is going to be required to operate fro Garden Keys, small craft that will go elsewhere in the park including the resource natural area. So you could make the argument that more people are going to have more opportunities to go out and see the resource.
As someone who has been thinking about going out to camp there, is there any plan to actually get water out there or anything?
I think it'll always stay Dry Tortugas. It's a primitive demanding situation, but you'd be surprised how many people seek it, because it is a unique place.
What's it like, for people who haven't seen it?
The remoteness is striking, your talking 70 miles west of Key West. A traditional boat takes over 4 hours to get there. You feel your in the middle of the ocean, and then on the horizon suddenly comes the glimmer of this huge red brick fort in the middle of nowhere. When you get there the conditions are just pristine. At the right time of year it's some of the best bird watching you can find in the world, because of it's location. Snorkeling is great. There are hundreds of shipwrecks, the earliest going back to 1622, and you are free to see and do those things. If you want to talk about natural quiet and a beautiful night sky, you sure don't see the lights of Miami from the Dry Tortugas.
Now, I'm just curious, Bill mentioned that you had an anecdote to tell us. There was some kind of story that was actually anecdotal to this whole issue of how all of these different entities got together to from what is now or is going to be the Dry Tortugas Marin Reserve. There was a little -I cannot recall but he mentioned that you would tell us something. Maybe you already have and I just missed it.
I don't know exactly what he means, but I have a good one if ...
We have a traditionally strong relationship with the Bahamas National Trust, which is established the world's first marine protected area in 1957. In 1986 they took that park and made it a replenishment zone; They stopped fishing in it. As a result fish populations have rebounded. Local fisher groups support the park and understand its importance. The park contains 30 times the number of conch inside that you find outside. The anecdote is, here we are in Key West, the capital of the conch republic. You cannot legally harvest conch in the keys because they have been depleted -cause the Bahamas have taken action to establish these replenishments reserves, when you order conch fritters here it's from the Bahamas. And I think that shows the success of this approach.
12:00-13:45 chat about what is being done next
ambi -from interview sight
ambi -harbor; lots of background noise (cars, people, etc ). You can barely hear the water, if at all.
20:15-23:45 Billy Causey
discussion of people that the reporter should talk to and a little discussion about the commercial industry. 21:40 -begins talk of how commercial fisherman were on the planning board for the Dry Tortugas reserves and how the industry supports the reserve.
20:53 Billy Causey
I'm Billy Causey and I'm the superintendent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
24:01 Alex Tell me what is the Dry Tortugas?
The Dry Tortugas is an area that's about 70 miles west of Key West. It's actually at the very end of the Florida Keys archipelago. If you look at the chain of the Keys and they look like the pearls in a beaded necklace, the Tortugas are at the very end of that chain of pearls. It really is a gem. The Dry Tortugas national Park was actually first a National Monument that was established in 1935. It is under the jurisdiction of the US Dep't of Interior and specifically the National Park Service. The sanctuary, the Florida Keys national Marine Sanctuary, completely surrounds the Dry Tortugas national Park. The national park has shallow water habitats and there are seven islands inside the park and there are shallow sea grass beds ... (lists kinds of vegetation and sea life in Tortugas) ... all the critical shallow water habitats that are important to some part of the life cycle in marine critters. Whereas out in the deeper portions. In the sanctuary area, we have some of the deep reef habitats. We have some of the most spectacular coral reef formations left in North America. By combining the shallow water habitats and the deep-water habitat we will have a reserve that will not only be there for future generations but what we are looking at right now is the ability to use this tool, the tool called marine reserves or ecological reserves, to protect the biodiversity of this very important area.
People say, okay you've got a sanctuary and a report, so what is a reserve. What is a reserve?
A lot of people are confused sometimes about national Marine Sanctuaries. In fact, we have a very interesting, a very challenging mandate, and that is to allow continued, compatible, multiple uses as long as we do not in fact jeopardize the resources. So our job is to really come up with management strategies that protects the resources of the sanctuaries, the marine resources, but also in such a way that the commercial and recreational activities continue. In the Tortugas region there have been activities for decades, and it is an area that where we can use the tool of a reason, which is coming in and essentially using the concept of marine zoning. We've used zoning on land for years to solve problems. You don't build bars next to churches. You don't put bars next to schools or you don't put development cement batching plants in the middle of residential neighborhoods. But what we have done on land is use the concept of marine zoning to partition these uses and to separate these uses in a very common sense way.
The concept of reserves is one more type of zoning where we set areas aside for full protection, and that's where no one takes anything. And really these are essentially no take areas.
So you can't take fish out of there, you can't take corral out of there, you can't take even the sand off the bottom?
That's right. In fact divers are highly restricted. Divers can go in these areas and look and in fact in the Tortugas it's broken up into two areas, Tortugas North and Tortugas South, and we're not allowing any activity, even scuba diving activity in the Tortugas South. But in the Tortugas North area boats can't anchor, divers can't touch the bottom or stand on the bottom. They can't even impact the bottom in anyway whatsoever. And the idea there is to protect the habitat, and to protect not only the habitat but all that it represents in the way of hiding place for the fish, hiding places for the invertebrates, as well as a food source, the marine life that feeds off the reef itself. So by having a marine reserve we're going to be able to full protect this area and still allow access to it, but also protect eh biodiversity of it. It's one more tool at national Marine Sanctuaries that we really haven't used. The Tortugas Ecological Reserve is the largest full-protected area in the marine environment in North America. It is a very significant event. It took over ten years to get it established, and it was ten years of a community based process of getting information from the public, giving them feedback running into a great deal of conflict at times. The end result has been that we now have the reserve. Even without what is included in the national park, 150 square nautical miles of some of this nation's most significant marine environment that is set aside for future generations.
If you were trying to explain this to someone who really didn't know what a reserve was or perhaps even a sanctuary, is this like the creation of a Yellowstone under water. Maybe that's what people thought the Sanctuaries were, but the sanctuaries really don't extend that kind of protection to the marine realm, but you're talking about a place where you can't hunt, you can't take stuff, as you can't in Yellow Stone or Yosemite or other true national parks .
That's exactly correct. In that we are setting aside the first under water wilderness areas in North America. I'm using that term in the broadest of definitions in that it is very much like a national park on land where everything is protected from various sources of take, even the paths that we walk on are marked and people are very careful about their impact in national Parks. We expect the same things in the Tortugas Ecological Reserve. Divers that visit there, must only take pictures and leave bubbles.
Some sports fishing people say maybe you don't want to have commercial fishing in these places, but why can't I go and catch a fish especially a lot of fishing people these days practice catch and release, so what's the harm with that?
The concept is new to everyone and commercial fisherman over the years have been confronted with a lot of legislation. In fact when something is going wrong in the fishing industry we tend to start pointing fingers at the commercial fishing industry. The process that we set up we actually pulled the commercial fisherman out and we used them as experts and as leaders in their community to help us resolve this problem. We didn't really dream we were going to have that much of a problem from recreational fishers. And many of them think, well we don't have an impact. But if you think of the numbers of fisherman that are increasing around our coastal area, there are more and more recreational fishers. I'm a recreational fisher, all my family are recreational fishers and we love to gout fishing. But I also am happy to know that there is going to be some area set aside for my great grandchildren that will be protected for their children. And the Tortugas is going to provide that opportunity.
31:37 -32:59 Billy
What I would encourage the recreational fishing lobby and the recreational fishing industry to do is to embrace this concept with us around the country and let us all rise on the same tide, let all of our boats rise on the same tide because they are going to benefit from these just as commercials fishers will benefit from the reserves. It's extremely exciting that we have leaders in the commercial fishing industry in the Keys, people like Tony Iroshi, that is now a member of the South Atlantic Management ofFishery Council, people lie Peter Glading that worked in the Tortugas are for 30 years hand line fishing for yellow tail snapper and kingfish, come up and say I know that I'm g09iogn to be giving up a part of the area that I use but I think it's worth it to benefit all ofFlorida and all of the United States. This is what I hope the recreational fishers would see and embrace this. Let's find solutions. What I really would like to see is recreational fishers embrace the concept, but realize that there has to be a process very similar to what we did in the Florida Keys, where we bring science, and not only natural science but socio-economic science to the table. And that's the solution.
In the past we let emotions and we let some science and we let conservation ethics drive our process and that tends to start polarizing groups. Once you come in and you start seeing the importance of these areas you find that the oceanography in the area, the water circulation patterns are so unique, it's so critical that if you put a reserve in this spot it is going to benefit areas downstream for hundreds of miles away. That's what we did in the Tortugas. We brought the very best ocean current data, done by Dr. Tom Lee from the University of Miami, to the table and it was almost like watching the commercial fisherman totally bond with that information because they had seen logs going by one direction and coming by the next week and the new intuitively that there were very special currents in the Tortugas areas that would supply larvae, anything spawned in the Tortugas, all the way up into the Gulf of Mexico, all the way up the east coast of Florida, and even as far away as the Carolinas. So I would hope that recreational fishers would see that we in the future would place these in the right location using the best science, using the best information coming from not only the scientific professionals, but the professionals that make their living on the water, and embrace this and help us move this process along. In that way it would fall short of being an emotional knee-jerk reaction by various conser4vation groups and other groups. Rather than just be a good idea or a good concept it would be a management tool or a management option that we would all think is much better than seasons and limits.
You said something about this, the first underwater marine wilderness area, and I wanted to go back to that because what you're talking ab9ut is something that's important not just for Florida but for the country. I mean, this is a national concept that your trying out here.
That's precisely the situation. This concept has been talked about, has been studied, has been researched over the years by scientists around the country. We have marine reserve think tanks. We have marine reserve scientists that specialize in this area. We have graduate students that are getting out of college that have gotten their masters or PhD's on marine reserves or marine protected areas, yet we are only seeing a few of them established around the country. And that's really where the rubber hits the road is when you take those concepts and try to apply them. But the very best of academic information only as good as you can apply it in the communities where you wan to apply it. So that's where science, ecological science and natural science, comes head on to social science and you have to blend the two. But yes, this a concept that has been experimented with and has been successful in remote parts of the world. The Great Barrier Reef Park Authority were the pioneers in marine zoning and in the early 80's they set up some of the first marine reserves. Dr. Bill Balentine from New Zealand has spent decades trying to implement reserves in New Zealand and has now been successful at getting as much as 10% of the coastal areas set aside. But these are areas that are pretty barren. You look up on the shore and you see sheep, you don't see people. Here in the Florida Keys we have a large population. Along the coast in California we have a large population of people, but what we have here is a situation in which we have more people partaking of the resources and impacting the resources in various ways. So it's even more critical that we use this tool in this country. So yes, what we're doing here is part of a larger effort to use marine reserves as a management tool for the future.
Let me just ask you if I can, People are also going to be speeding this entire month taking part in the Great American Fish Count and is that something that you do, is that something you're interested in, does that data ever get to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and mean anything?
Oh absolutely. The data gathered through the Great American Fish Count is probably the greatest data that I like to get our and talk about because it's gathered by volunteers, it's gathered by people like you and me, it gathered by people that are not experts in fish ¬well, I guess they are because when they go through the training they are declared experts because they have to go through a very rigorous identification course. But in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary we have a 3 level monitoring program. And I'm not gonna talk about levels one and two because they are done by scientists that do fantastic work.. I like to talk about level 3. Level 3 is precisely using Great American Fish Count data and data gathered by REEF, which is the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, where they have experts go out and they go to all of our no-take areas, our sanctuaries and our ecological reserves, and they started doing this prior to implementation of our original zoning plan in 97 and they have continued to do that. And what's exciting is these volunteers have immediate results and the exciting thing to me is as a manager I can pay a scientists 100 thousand dollars and he'll say I can't quite give you that information yet, but next year I can give it to you. Whereas the volunteers as soon as they hit the dock they're like 'We say more fish, we say more grouper, we saw more lobster" and when they're in the bars that night and when they're in the restaurants or when they're getting they're tanks refilled, they're talking about how many more fish they have seen in these no-take areas. And the concept is really picking up. What's exciting to me as a manger I can't pay for that kind of public relations, for that information. What they're seeing, it may be anecdotal, but to me as a manger it is a person's reaction and that is as useful and as important as the science coming from the scientists.
39:50-40:42 ambi-background noise (planes, cars, chat, etc)
I have a commercial fish down there and I just think that a lot of what they're trying to do, I men, every time they take more and more and more away and you never get it back. I mean you could start with the reefs right out front there and work your way down. What they've done to our reefs here, it's ridiculous. Noah's got reefs that you can dive and not fish on. You can dive on any reef here except for one, but you can't fish on hardly any of them. They have no control substance. They doing the same thing down there. There trying to go down there and say 'Oh, these fish they live and once they catch them they're gone." Those fish move around. They're not always in the same spots. Basically they go down there and put some people in the water, and I know guys that have gone down there and those guys take fish, they eat fish for dinner. The government can take them but we can't take them. What's the deal with that?
But back to our reefs here, they just have not controlled substance. If your going to try to do a study on reefs, have reefs that you can fish and not dive on, have reefs that you can dive and not fish on, have reefs that you can't do anything on. Here right now, if there's a dive boat on a reef that we can fish on, we can't dive there because they've got divers in the water there. There's no control, so who's to say if the fishermen are hurting the reefs or the divers. But back to the bag limit - it's just ridiculous. They just keep taking more and more and more away. I mean the Rangers can take fish there or the Noah people they can go down there and do their studies; they can dive and shoot fishing the preserves. There are no rules for them, why should there be rules for us.
Can I just get your name?
44:06 Brice Barr
Brice Barr, Captain Brice Barr.
Thank you Brice.
44:10-44:50 Talk about what other boats to talk to.
If I was to take this boat out there for fun, just for fun, they hassle us so bad about. Just if I take my crew, I mean my mate and just some ofmy family, they give you such a hard time just about even being there. I mean, it's like it's not the people, it's not a national park. It's the people who live there, it's there park. It's the government's park. They don't' even want people there. They would just like it better ifno one was there and that's what they're trying to do. They're trying to close that whole thing down. Maybe I'm going off on tangents that you don't even want to hear about.
It's the recreational fisher's that they're saying can't even fish now, even though a lot of them are catch and release.
Yea, you can't catch and release. You can't do anything in there anymore. It used to be inside the park boundaries that you could take your ten snappers or you could take your two groupers per person. Now, you can't even drop a line in there. There saying anywhere inside these buoys(sp?), it's like a four mile radius of the fort, there is no fishing. That's what they're saying. I mean it's seventy miles a way. Not a whole lot of recreational guys can go there. If they go there they should be able to catch their ten snappers, cook them for dinner. Most of the people that go down there are going down there for a few days. They're gonna camp on the beach, they're gonna grill their fish on the beach. But even if they catch their fish outside of the boundaries and bring it in, they're still gonna give them a hard time about it. If I was to go down there and catch some fish on the way to the fort, all the rangers are like where did you catch these fish. They can actually ticket you for them. It's ridiculous, ya know. People go down there for fun and they're taking all the fun out of it.
47:50-48:47 Richard Houde
I haven't read the latest proposals of what there going to do. I've heard that some of it they are planning on shutting a lot more of it down. It's getting kind of ridiculous cause, basically 'It's our park, just don't use it. They getting more and more of an attitude toward that. I'm getting real tired of the government trying to put us out of business and push us off the water. I don't know who they are saving it for, and I don't think we're hurting it. I'm not against some kind of ecological measures, but I don't think they have the knowledge. I think they're doing a 'let's try this and see if it works. Ifit does fine. Ifit doesn't work, well then, we'll try something else, but you guys are out of business. Sorry about that.' I'm getting real tired of that. They don't really have the data or the information. They can tweak it, and torque it, and twist it anyway they want to say what they want, and they've done that in the past with the marine reserves up here. So, no, I'm not really in favor of them. I'm not a real big fan of the government and I'm not a real big fan of their plans.
48:48-52:59 ambi -boat motor, chat in the background. Actually, this might be truck. Hhmm? 51 :33-revving the engine, 51 :50 -gets louder. 52:30 -sound starts to fade into the distance.
53:11-59:02 ambi -marina, boats coming in and out, intermittent chat in background. 55:04 -Leo says that a boat is going to start coming into the dock. 57:20-57:40 is good.
59:10-59:23,59:33-59:44,1:00:35-1:00:46, stand-up But here at the Key West Marina were charter boat captains like Brice Barr run day hookers out to use hook and line, there are other views about the reserve.
1:01:12-1:01:19,1:01:25-1:01:32 stand-up But here at the Key West City Marine you can find charter Captains like Richard Houde, who think otherwise.