“After hours of heated testimony from supporters and critics of industry-developed guidelines pertaining to the conduct of marine life feeding by divers, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) decided that the proposed guidelines, developed by the Global Marine Interactive Experience Council-proposed (GIMEC), were insufficient to protect either the public or Florida’s marine resources, and directed State biologists to come up with stronger and more comprehensive guidelines that would better meet the State’s needs and Commissioners concerns.
Major issues that the State will now substantively address include: species fed, distance from beaches and natural reefs that feeding operations are allowed to occur, and whether the touching or handling of marine life should be permitted at all in conjunction with feeding dives. Guidelines or rules developed through this ongoing process will not affect sport or commercial fishing operations. The newly developed State guidelines will be available for public review in late August, and opened to public comment (and further FFWCC revision) at the next (early September) FFWCC meeting at Amelia Island (near Jacksonville).
A number of Commissioners expressed dissatisfaction with GIMECs proposed suggestions, guidelines that marine conservation groups called merely cosmetic. Despite the accumulation of two years of expert testimony from conservation biologists and wildlife managers recommending the outright banning of feeding marine wildlife, a motion from outgoing Commissioner Tony Moss to do just that died for lack of a second. A total ban on marine wildlife feeding was supported by a broad coalition of environmental interests, including Environmental Defense, Humane Society of the U.S., Reef Relief, Watchable Wildlife, Inc., Defenders of Wildlife, World Wildlife Fund, and the Surfrider Foundation. Some federal wildlife managers, including representatives from the U.S. National Park Service and NOAAs Office of Protected Resources, have also gone on record with the FFWCC in support of total prohibition of wildlife feeding, one already in effect in all U.S. and Canadian National Parks.
Copyright 2001, Marine Safety Group, Inc.