WASHINGTON, D.C. — The closure of a national park in Florida has spurred two senators from the Gulf of Mexico region to propose a bill seeking to provide states with greater protections to maintain the public’s access to marine waters for fishing.
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) introduced Senate Bill 2807 (S. 2807) in April to maintain public access to recreational and commercial fishing at national parks. S. 2807 spawned from the planned fishing closure of Biscayne National Park in Florida.
Federal officials are seeking to establish a no-fishing zone at Biscayne National Park.
The park, which is located south of Miami, is one of the largest of its kind in the United States. There are about 600 species of freshwater and saltwater fish and a large coral reef, according to news reports.
If approved and signed into law by Pres. Barack Obama the Senate bill would require the National Park Service to seek state consent before shutting down a park or establishing a no-fishing zone.
National parks in California – such as Sequoia and Yosemite – would be affected by S. 2807.
“The Secretary [of the National Park Service] shall not restrict recreational or commercial fishing access to any state or territorial marine waters or Great Lakes waters under the jurisdiction of the Service unless the restrictions are developed in coordination with, and approved by, the fish and wildlife management agency of the State or territory that has fisheries management authority over the marine waters,” the language of S. 2807 read.
Rubio and Cassidy introduced the bill on the Senate floor on April 18. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is currently considering the bill.
“State agencies have specialized knowledge of these waters and should have a seat at the table when major management plans or closures are considered,” Rubio stated. “We need this legislation in order to ensure that access to [marine waters] is not decided solely by Washington, but instead by both federal and state agencies that are able to carefully consider all invested interests and parties.”
While governors could have veto power over fishery management decisions critics claim S. 2807 would adversely affect conservation efforts. An argument has been reportedly been made where states might not prioritize conservation efforts and instead seek to privately develop what was public-owned lands.
The American Sportfishing Association, BoatUS, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, International Game Fish Association and National Marine Manufacturers Association endorsed S. 2807.