February 17, 2021

Via email: jessica.mccawley@myfwc.com

Jessica McCawley
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Marine Fisheries Department
620 South Meridian Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600

Re:      Expanded Protection of Western Dry Rocks

Dear Jessica,

Last Stand supports the strongest possible protection of the important Western Dry Rocks multi-species reef fish spawning aggregation site.  Based on data from fisheries scientists and anecdotal information from fishermen, we ask you to consider a year-round closure of an area much greater than the proposed one-square-mile to protect this special site.

As has been demonstrated in other areas within the FKNMS, strong protections produce maximum benefit to the multiple fisheries, with increased abundance and health of all of the reef fish species.  While we were somewhat encouraged by the proposed expansion of closure to four months, we are convinced this small step would not adequately protect this special area.  A small step would initially raise hopes, but it would produce failure in the long term.

The Board supports a year-round closure at the Western Dry Rocks, and we believe such a decision, coupled with protection of an area much larger than one-square-mile, would benefit both the resource and the multiple fisheries.

For the Last Stand Board,

D.A. Aldridge, President