Ros-Lehtinen’s Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act Passes the U.S. House of Representatives

Feb 26, 2016

Ros-Lehtinen’s Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act Passes the U.S. House of Representatives

“Today’s vote will help ensure that South Floridians retain their full voice in how their public waters in Biscayne National Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are managed, and I am most grateful for the bipartisan support of my colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

(Washington, DC) – Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act (H.R. 3310) passed the U.S. House of Representatives in strongly bipartisan fashion, 242 – 161, as a provision included within H.R. 2406- the Sportsmen’s Hunting and Recreation Enhancement (SHARE) Act.

The Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act, also cosponsored by Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, protects and maintains existing environmental protections and fishing regulations enshrined in law, and is narrowly tailored to simply keep states involved in the management of their own waters; it does not apply in any way to federal waters. The goal is to ensure that federal and state agencies collaborate in the development of any new fishing access restrictions in areas where state marine waters and national park or national marine sanctuary boundaries overlap, as is the case throughout Biscayne National Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act was developed in response to the new moratorium on fishing proposed by the National Park Service across 10,500 acres of park waters and 30% of Biscayne National Park’s reefs over the objections of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and many members of the public. Given the importance of both recreational and commercial fishing to Florida’s economy, and the large impact this closure would have on one of the most visited and fished marine parks in the United States, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen is working to make sure that federal and state government agencies collaborate to protect fishermen’s livelihoods, improve recreational opportunities for families, and conserve our precious environmental resources.

The bill is supported by FWC, the Association of State Wildlife Agencies, Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game, Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the Council of Great Lakes Fishery Agencies and a diverse array of fishermen, conservationists, and industry groups including the American Sportfishing Association, Cape Canaveral Shrimp Company, Inc., Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Dixie Crossroads Inc./Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant, Florida Keys Commercial Fisherman’s Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Organized Fishermen of Florida, Southeastern Fisheries Association, Inc., and Wild Ocean Seafood Market.

Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

“Floridians understand the importance of balancing environmental, recreational, and economic considerations along our coasts because our state is the ‘Fishing Capital of the World.’ With that balance in mind, I worked to carefully develop and tailor this language so that it would only apply to a very small area of nearshore waters with deep importance to fishermen.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has vast expertise balancing environmental, recreational, and economic considerations and should be trusted as a valuable partner to the federal government in managing Biscayne National Park’s fisheries resources as they are legally authorized to do. Today’s vote will help ensure that South Floridians retain their full voice in how their public waters in Biscayne National Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are managed, and I am most grateful for the bipartisan support of my colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH REP-ROS-LEHTINEN's DEFENSE OF PUBLIC ACCESS TO PUBLIC WATERS ON THE HOUSE FLOOR