Can Florida's new marine reserve replenish the Gulf's fish?Amid warnings that global seafood stocks could dry up by 2048, the stateacts to guard its waters.
By Richard Luscombe Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. -
With 1,350 miles of coastline and a $62 billiontourism industry largely dependent on the quality of its waters, Florida hasgood reason to fear the disastrous consequences of pollution andoverfishing. In the wake of a warning earlier this month that the world's seafood stockscould be depleted by 2048, Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and his cabinet have signed offon a pioneering marine protection plan that some experts say should become amodel for the nation. All fishing will be banned in a 46-square-mile stretchof ocean 70 miles west of Key West, which will be incorporated within theDry Tortugas National Park to create the largest marine reserve in thecontinental US. "It's a huge step forward for marine ecosystem management in Florida," saysDavid White, a regional director for the Ocean Conservancy. "Protecting theecological integrity of the area, including the country's only living coralreef, was the cake. The icing is the fisheries benefits it will provide. Thefish that spawn there will be spreading throughout the Keys." With stocks of cod, grouper, and other once-prevalent fish at record lowsnationwide - for example, the Ocean Conservancy estimates that numbers ofred snapper in the Gulf of Mexico are at barely 3 percent of historic levels- few dispute the need for immediate action. Florida's plan comes amid othermoves nationwide to protect the nation's waters.