Public input needed for Southeast Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area
- The Southeast Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area (Coral ECA), a stretch of Florida’s reef tract from the northern boundary of Biscayne Bay National Park to the St. Lucie Inlet, is in need of conservation.
- A public meeting will be held on March 11 to inform stakeholders and the general public about the process. This first public meeting is scheduled from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
- People interested in participating in the public meeting should register for this free webinar by March 11 by visiting the program website at https://www.flseagrant.org/fisheries-conservation-coral-eca/
FLORIDA — Florida’s coral reef ecosystems are highly vulnerable and need to be conserved.
Among those is the Southeast Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area (Coral ECA). It’s the northernmost part of Florida’s reef tract, stretching from the northern boundary of Biscayne Bay National Park to the St. Lucie Inlet.
[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]To gain input about conserving the Coral ECA, a public meeting will be held on March 11 to inform stakeholders and the general public about the process. This first public meeting is scheduled from 6:30 to 8 p.m.[/inlinetweet]
Fewer laws protect the Coral ECA than the southern parts of the reef. It’s classified as “impaired” — the most critical score — according to the latest Status Report for US Coral Reefs from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“Proximity to human population centers, coral disease, water quality issues, fishing, boating and climate change are just some of the factors affecting the coral reef ecosystem in the ECA,” said Kai Lorenzen, Professor of fisheries in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources & Conservation.
Researchers are gathering input from stakeholders to engage the fishing community, one of the main user groups in the Coral ECA. This will help scientists develop recommendations for potential fisheries and environmental management actions to enhance coral reef ecosystem conservation and fishing quality.
Organizers hope to engage stakeholders from southeast Florida, including recreational anglers and spear fishers, charter operators, commercial fishers targeting reef-associated species, marine life collectors, marine industry (bait and tackle shops, marinas) and their respective organizations.
People interested in participating in the public meeting should register for this free webinar by March 11 by visiting the program website at https://www.flseagrant.org/fisheries-conservation-coral-eca/ or by visiting Eventbrite and searching for UF and DEP Coral Reef Program Stakeholder Engagement Project Public Meeting. Once registered, participants will receive a Zoom link to the online event the day before the meeting.
At the heart of the process is a fishing stakeholder committee that meets regularly to develop recommendations, based on scientific information and broader stakeholder input. While the University of Florida facilitates the process, it’s getting support from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Coral Reef Conservation Program, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Florida Sea Grant and the NOAA Coral Reef Program.
During the first meeting, facilitators from the UF team will lead discussions about the stakeholder project and obtain input on perceptions of reef ecosystem status and management and conservation issues and options.
“We are interested in hearing from diverse fisheries and other stakeholders about their views on the state of the coral reef ecosystem and management and conservation priorities for the Coral ECA” said Dr. Susana Hervas, the project scientist and coordinator at UF.
Participants can expect to come away from the meeting informed about the Coral ECA conservation process and acquainted with ways to keep connected.
After this meeting, the committee will continue to meet and further review science and discuss potential management recommendation options. Additional public meetings will be scheduled to gain feedback and input on the steps that the committee will be taking.
By: Lourdes Rodriguez, firstname.lastname@example.org
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions
to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.
The Florida Sea Grant program, hosted at UF/IFAS, is a university-based program that supports research, education and Extension to conserve coastal resources and enhance economic opportunities for the people of Florida. In addition to UF/IFAS, the program is a partnership between Florida universities, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and county governments.
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