Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Creating New Marine Sanctuaries

Our Ocean Legacy:

Our nation is intrinsically connected to and immensely reliant on the ocean and the coastal ecology. All citizens - whether they reside in the country’s farmlands or mountains, in its cities or along the coasts - are affected by the sea. Our grocery stores and restaurants are stocked with seafood and our docks are bustling with seaborne cargo and other activity.

Additionally, millions of visitors flock to the nation’s shores each year, creating jobs and contributing substantially to the U.S. economy through one of the country’s largest and most rapidly growing economic sectors: tourism and recreation.

The offshore ocean area under U.S. jurisdiction is larger than its total land mass and hosts great biological diversity and a frontier for exciting exploration and effective education. The importance of our oceans and coasts cannot be overstated; they are critical to the existence and well-being of the nation and its people. Yet, as the 21st century dawns, it is clear that these invaluable and life-sustaining assets are vulnerable to the activities of humans.

Unfortunately, our ever-improving technologies have enabled us to exploit and significantly alter the marine environment to meet society’s escalating needs. Pollution runs off the land, degrading coastal waters and harming marine life. Many fish populations are declining and some of our ocean’s most majestic creatures have nearly disappeared.

Along our coasts, habitats that are essential to fish and wildlife and provide valuable services to humanity continue to suffer significant losses. Non-native species are being introduced, both intentionally and accidentally, into distant areas, often resulting in significant economic costs, risks to human health, and ecological consequences that we are only beginning to comprehend.

Creating New Florida Marine Sanctuaries:

Florida in particular depends on healthy oceans. Our oceans are home to endangered right whales and manatees, threatened species of sea turtles, and most of the shallow water coral reefs of the continental United States. They provide recreational and commercial fishing for millions of anglers and draw tens of millions of tourists to Florida each year, forming the basis of our vibrant economy.

Very few of Florida’s vital ocean areas are currently protected: The Florida Keys have a national marine sanctuary; Biscayne Bay is a national park; the Ten Thousand Islands are a state aquatic preserve. But many other areas are not protected from pollution or destructive activities like dredging, offshore oil drilling, and unsustainable fishing.

Save Our Shores! Florida advocates a plan that would create a series of underwater marine sanctuaries much like the national parks and forests system we already have on land. These marine sanctuaries would control all activities occurring within a certain area, including oil and gas drilling, bottom trawling and dredging. Sanctuaries can also heal damaged oceans and help to restore fish populations.

There are several coastal areas that we propose should be first in line for new marine sanctuary status:
   1. An area along the Georgia-Florida border that is critical habitat for calving northern right whales, whose world-wide population has dwindled to an estimated 300-350.
      
   2. The Occulina Banks off the east coast of Florida where unique cold-water corals slowly grow and shelter a unique underwater ecosystem.

   3. The Big Bend Seagrass area, which stretches for approximately 100 miles along the curve of Florida’s peninsula where it joins the panhandle. The area is habitat for at least two endangered or threatened fish species, several endangered or threatened turtle species and the endangered Florida manatee.

   4. The area just north of the existing Everglades National Park on the western Gulf coast, including the Ten Thousand Islands area, which contains an immense variety of unique sea life.
We are currently working to build support amongst our elected officials, supporters, and key constituencies like recreational fishing groups, charter boat captains, and commercial fisherman for policies that will protect unique places off of Florida’s coast while still allowing the public to enjoy this amazing resource. 

To become a member of Save Our Shores! Florida, click here.

To contact your elected officals, simply follow the link below and enter your address. You’ll be able to send an e-mail or a printed letter to your senators, representatives, and the Governor.   Contact your elected officials.



Credits:
U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.
An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century.
Final Report.
Washington, DC, 2004
ISBN#0–9759462–0–X


Environment Florida
Our Ocean Legacy
Web Link

Photo by Sanjoy:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/sanjoy/

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