May 16-22, 2003
Federal Hearings Draw Angry Anglers from across the State
The walls of Harborside Convention Center in Fort Myers reverberated with applause, again and again, as citizens decried federal intervention in what has become the Great Manatee War.
"At what point will we reach a status quo when people can relax and not feel like we’re being railroaded off our waterways?" asked Jim Kalvin of Standing Watch, a group pledged to protecting access to Florida waterways. By the crowd’s reaction, it was plain to see Kalvin’s rhetorical question reflected the sentiments of the vast majority of those gathered Tuesday evening.
An estimated 2,500 persons turned out for the first of three public workshops held last week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The purpose of the workshops, said Service public affairs officer Chuck Underwood, was to gather details and justification for why the federal agency should amend a proposed rule creating three new manatee refuges in Florida.
The proposed refuges--in the Caloosahatchee River in southwest Florida, the Lower St. Johns River near Jacksonville, and the Halifax and Tomoka rivers in Volusia County--would comprise a network of slow-speed zones. That’s in addition to numerous and similar state-managed zones already in place around the state.
Most of those gathered at the Harborside Convention Center wavered somewhere between flabbergasted and fully enraged over proposals for more manatee protection, especially as data shows the animals’ numbers have increased dramatically in recent years.
"Manatees are exceeding the goals for recovery," said Ted Forsgren, Executive Director of CCA Florida. “The state of Florida has done an excellent job and should be allowed to continue.” The federal proposals, said Forsgren, “would absolutely ruin recreational fishing and boating on the Caloosahatchee River.”
“Science has little to do with these proposals,” said Ernie Hendry, a Fort Myers-born resident. “Science shows that populations are increasing, and that there’s a zero percent chance of extinction in the next 100 years. Enough is enough.”
Many locals commented on how they depend on the Caloosahatchee for sportfishing and other forms of recreation. According to one speaker, one of the many slow-speed scenarios proposed by USFWS would’ve lengthened a traditional 30-minute boat ride into 1 1/2 hours.
There was a great deal of concern expressed over economic losses as a result of manatee-related issues. The FWS has been holding up many permits for dock-building in southwest Florida, under the supposed premise that more boats would contribute to more manatee deaths. “Alert: Docks Don’t Kill Manatees,” was the point many speakers made—as did several signs held up by the crowd.
A number of speakers noted that federal efforts to slow boat traffic were likely to derail other important environmental issues in the area.
“There are real issues to deal with,” said Kalvin. “Red tide, thermal pollution, disappearing seagrasses. . . this kind of single species management is foresaking all other issues on the Caloosahatchee.”
Said one speaker, alluding to how the Save the Manatee Club and other animal rights’ groups had precipitated the federal action, “One special interest group should not be able to shape the future of southwest Florida.” Similar strong turnouts occurred in Daytona Beach and Jacksonville.
Underwood said public comments on the manatee refuge proposals will be reviewed and condensed by four staff members at the USFWS Jacksonville Field Office. With the approval of Field Supervisor Dave Hankla, a “final” draft rule will be sent to the Southeast Regional office in Atlanta, where it will be subject to more review. A finalized final decision would be made in Washington, DC.
The Service will be accepting written comment through June 3. Submit letters to Dave Hankla, Field Supervisor, Jacksonville Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn.: Proposed Manatee Refuges, 6620 Southpoint Dr., South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, FL 32216. You can send comments by fax to (904) 232-2404, or e-mail email@example.com.
To see the full proposed draft rule, visit: northflorida.fws.gov/.....
See the coming June issue of Florida Sportsman for additional coverage.
Manatee Regulations Protest Rally
On Memorial Day, Monday, May 26, a flotilla of boaters and fishermen will gather in the Merritt Island Barge Canal to protest unnecessary manatee regulations. The rally from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. is coordinated by Citizens for Florida’s Waterways. The purpose? To “Stop the Madness” of zealous over- regulation of Florida’s waterways, more specifically new Brevard County slow-speed zones. For more information, contact Tom McGill (321) 453-1218 or visit www.cffw.org.
Spring Outboard Incentive
Yamaha has announced that through June 30, the company will add two years of extended service for boaters on selected outboards. The promotion applies to HPDI 2-stroke outboards between 150- to 250-hp. Combined with the company’s standard 2-year warranty, that adds up to four years of coverage on these V-6 models. There are some restrictions. For complete details, visit www.yamaha-motor.com.
Biscayne Line Recycling Begins
Starting this weekend, anglers at Biscayne National Park’s Convoy Point, Homestead Bayfront Park and Black Point Park will find monofilament recycling bins for disposing of unwanted line. Biscayne Park, the Tropical Audubon Society and Florida Sea Grant have joined with student volunteers from Homestead High School, the Girl Scouts and other community organizations as part of the statewide Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program (MRRP), coordinated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The team effort is aimed at educating the public on the hazards posed to wildlife by improperly discarded fishing line and to encourage recycling.
“Sea turtles, marine mammals, fish and birds all suffer tremendous injuries and sometimes die as a result of becoming entangled in improperly discarded fishing line,” noted Cynthia Guerra with Tropical Audubon. It also has a nasty habit of wrapping around boat props.
Volunteers will periodically collect the line for shipment to Berkley Pure Fishing in Iowa, where the line is melted down for use in tackle boxes, line spools, toys and other items. The group hopes to install another 20 recycling bins around Miami-Dade County by November. For more details, type in www.fishinglinerecycling.com.
Red Tide Recedes, Snooking Improves
Wade fishermen reported excellent catch-and-release snook fishing along Sanibel Island this week, as red tide conditions finally began clearing. Schools of 20- to 30-inch fish were roaming the first trough and feeding well on small white streamer flies, especially during the outgoing tide. On the flip side, Boca Grande pass tarpon fishing seems to have taken a nose-dive, for reasons not yet fully understood. For more on what’s biting in Southwest Florida bites, check out Capt. Ron Kowalyk’s Weekend Fishing 4Cast.