New Everglades park plan restricts boating in Florida Bay

Under a new plan released Friday, Everglades National Park plans to restrict boating in Florida Bay and designate other areas for protection.

The plan also calls for the designation of more than 42,000 acres as wilderness to kept in a primitive state, and creates new ways for visitors to access the park, the Sun Sentinel reported.

The most controversial part of the plan appears to be the restrictions on Florida Bay, a popular fishing destination. Under the new rules, boaters would be required to take a boater education course before entering the bay. About 26 percent of the bay would be a pole and troll zone and another 6 percent would be a pole, troll or idle speed zone.

Proponents of the plan say the change is needed to protect local wildlife and vegetation from boaters.

“They would blast through the flats,” John Adornato, Sun Coast regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association, told the paper. “Seagrass was being damaged by prop scars and the fishing was being negatively impacted. People were driving over the flats and blowing holes in the seagrass beds. It had a negative effect on juvenile fish, prey species, all the way up to tarpon and bonefish.”

Members of the local fishing industry said the plan is an improvement over earlier versions, which would have restricted access even more, but that the problems in Florida Bay have been caused by land development, not boating.

“Prop scars have not killed Florida Bay,” Capt. Tad Burke, a fishing guide and board member of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association told the paper. “Water practices allowing for excess development, that’s what killed Florida Bay.”

Park officials said it would take a year or two to implement the new requirements.


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