A World of Fishes within 173,000 acres of water

A World of Fishes within 173,000 acres of water

Biscayne National Park is home to more than 400 different species of fish that rely and thrive on its unique and diverse marine ecosystems. Within these ecosystems we have mangrove forests along the coast and along the different keys that serve as their nurseries. The seagrasses and coral reefs that protect fishes and serve as their home and are of high nutrient value. Also, within this world of fishes, about 80 species are actively and routinely being harvested by commercial and recreational fishers which if left unchecked poses a threat not only for each species population, but for the food web dynamism, and those same marine ecosystems that support them.

What is Biscayne National Park Doing to avoid overfishing?

The National Park Service (NPS) in conjunction with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are working together to improve human, non-human experience and the marine ecosystem’s overall state inside Biscayne National Park. They created the Fishery Management Plan with the help of other stakeholders directly involved and affected by changes to the status quo inside the park. Within this plan there are fishing regulations regarding size, specie, and quantity of fish for recreational and commercial fishers. There are seasons and area limits for crab and lobster traps to be placed. There are also no trawl zones, conservation zones, historic preservation zones, and much more as shown in the map. This plan is reviewed and change every five years to improve its quality and effectiveness. One of the ways in which scientists can analyze if the plan is working is through creel surveys at marinas. 

Creel surveys for the win

Creel surveys are part of the job that the Natural Resource Management team at the park do, and by extension, my primal responsibility this summer. There are two distinctive marinas along Biscayne Bay and within Biscayne National Park, which are: Black Point and Homestead Bay FrontHere is where I have been conducting in-person creel surveys to recreational fishers coming back. These surveys are voluntary, so it is up to the fishers to allow for questioning and to answer honestly. Between the questions I would ask them would be their expertise, the type of fishing, the time they were actively fishing for, the area, their expected catch, and their actual catch. Finally, and most importantly, I will ask permission to board the boat and measure the fish with a ruler. If species do not attain with the regulations of size and/or quantity, I would explain that regulations within the park are different than from outside, and give them brochures plus more info on where to find all they need to know about them. Overall, these surveys are not only processed and analyzed to evaluate if the Fishery Management Plan is working and to improve it, but also as a way of educating recreational fishers. It has been highly educating and satisfactory to conduct this surveys because I get to interact with people (that will remember you) and because I am constantly and actively learning and bettering my speech skills and overall knowledge about conservation and marine ecosystem’s interconnection with humanity.  

Also, as a huge plus, I get to see manatees every time I go!!

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