Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

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Chapter 3. SITE DESCRIPTION

f - Impacts and threats affecting the area

Impacts and threats within the area


Impact and threats level Evolution In the short term Evolution In the long term Species affected Habitats affected Description / comments
Exploitation of natural ressources: Fishing very important increase increase - Decapod crustaceans (shrimp, stone crab, and spiny lobster) - Snappers (e.g., yellowtail), - Groupers, - King mackerels, - Spanish mackerels Two recent (2000-01, 2003) non-concurrent studies showed that 3.64 million person days were spent fishing on natural reefs annually in the Florida Keys. Concomitant with increasing fishing pressure associated with increasing population, average fishing power (the proportion of stock removed per unit of fishing effort) may have quadrupled in recent decades because of technological advances in fishing tackle, hydroacoustics (depth sounders and fish finders), navigation (charts and global positioning systems), communications, and vessel propulsion. In southwest Florida (including Monroe County), decapod crustaceans (shrimp, stone crab, and spiny lobster), snappers (e.g., yellowtail), groupers, king mackerels, and Spanish mackerels dominate commercial catches. In Monroe County, the total annual commercial landings for these species average almost 15 million pounds. In recent years, crustaceans have comprised 81 to 92 percent of the total catch value, while finfish made up the remainder. Poaching by fishers is a constant threat and a focus of much law enforcement activity.
Exploitation of natural ressources: Agriculture limited not specified not specified Not commented
Exploitation of natural ressources: Tourism very important not specified not specified Two recent (2000-01, 2003) Non-concurrent studies showed that 3.64 million person days were spent fishing on natural reefs annually in the Florida Keys.
Exploitation of natural ressources: Industry limited not specified not specified Not commented
Exploitation of natural ressources: Forest products limited not specified not specified Not commented
Increased population very important increase increase Most pressures stem from the 5 million annual visitors and approximately 80,000 year-round residents of Monroe County. Their high levels of use in the Sanctuary have significant direct and indirect effects on the ecosystem. Sanctuary visitors primarily seek water-related recreation, including diving, snorkeling, fishing and boating.
Invasive alien species significant not specified not specified Harmful algal blooms
Pollution limited not specified not specified Not commented
Other very important not specified not specified Climatic events play an important role in the ecosystem productivity of the Florida Keys NMS. Winter storms are common and recent cold periods have killed fish, manatees and corals. Summertime tropical cyclones are always a threat to this area. Recent periods of high sea temperature has caused many corals of the Keys to die due to coral bleaching. Diseases of coral have caused significant declines in coral species abundance and cover on coral reefs. Vessel groundings and anchor damage Dredging and Desalination plants Pollution from point and non-point sources, marinas, boats, and cruise ships Poaching by fishers is a constant threat and a focus of much law enforcement activity. Demand by an increased population and infrastructures Assess whether the current human presence or an expected increase in visitation (tourism, passage of vehicles and boats) and any human immigration into the area, or plans to build infrastructures, are considered a threat. Increasing human populations and development remains a constant threat to the regions natural resources.

Impacts and threats around the area


Impact and threats Level Evolution In the short term Evolution In the long term Species affected Habitats affected Description / comments
Exploitation of natural ressources: Fishing significant not specified not specified All recreational and commercial fishing is regulated, including gear, catch limits, season and species.
Exploitation of natural ressources: Agriculture limited not specified not specified Not commented
Exploitation of natural ressources: Tourism limited not specified not specified Not commented
Exploitation of natural ressources: Industry limited not specified not specified Not commented
Exploitation of natural ressources: Forest products limited not specified not specified Not commented
Increased population limited not specified not specified Not commented
Invasive alien species limited not specified not specified Not commented
Pollution significant not specified not specified - Fishes - Sea grass - Water - Beaches Pollution Name any point and non-point sources of external pollution in the nearby areas, including solid waste, and especially those affecting water up-current. Recent declines in coral recruitment, increases in the frequency and size of fish kills, and seagrass die-offs are implicated in declining water quality within the sanctuary. Pressures to water quality in the sanctuary are best described by the following: • Point sources of pollution: These are sources that release effluents directly into surface waters. When the Florida Keys NMS was designated in 1990 there were 19 facilities actively discharging into sanctuary waters, which included water treatment plans, power plants, a desalination plant, and other industrial facilities. • Non-point sources of pollution: These are discharges not made directly to surface waters. The primary non-point contributors within the sanctuary in 1990 were domestic wastewater (cesspits and septic tanks), abandoned landfills, marinas/live-aboards, and stormwater runoff. Beach closures are often a result of this type of pressure to water quality. • External input: Examples of this input include Florida Bay, Biscayne Bay, and canal structures operated by the local water management district. Additionally, the regions boundary currents (Loop and Florida), transport most of the water from the west coast of Florida, Mississippi River outfall, contributions from Central America and northern South America (Orinoco Flow), and various islands of the Caribbean. Lastly, eddies that form along boundary currents paralleling the shoreline can cause periodic upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich waters.
Other significant not specified not specified Global climatic change is considered a significant threat to ocean environments and ecosystems worldwide. This includes temperature increases, sea level rise and ocean acidification. All of these impacts, which are predicted to occur due to elevated greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and to natural causes, are of significant concern for the habitats, ecosystems and human communities in the Florida Keys and beyond.