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College of Marine Science lobbying legislators

In honor of Oceans Day 2005, faculty and students from USF’s College of Marine Science were in Tallahassee on April 14 to meet and encourage legislators to pass several bills in both the House and the Senate.

“Oceans Day is a day where attention is brought to the Congress and the governor in Tallahassee on ocean issues,” said Frank Muller-Kargar, a USF College of Marine Science professor. “And from that point of view, it’s really kind of unfortunate that it is only one day of the year that we have that kind of political highlight of our coast and oceans, because we are, as per the governor’s office, an ocean state.”

“What we’re going up there for is to talk to the lobbyists and the legislators about two bills that are going through the House and the Senate separately,” USF graduate student Carrie Wall said. “Both of these bills are basically outlining management and creating councils to analyze and assess the current management of our coastal marine resources.”

Rep. Donna Clarke of Sarasota sponsors House Bill 1627 and Sen. Paula Dockery of Lakeland sponsors Senate Bill 1670.

“The way I understand these bills right now, they are very different, which is an issue because the bills in the house and in the Senate have to read the same to become law,” Muller-Kargar said.

Wall mentioned that, “We need these two bills to converge and parallel each other so that when they go through the House … they’re actually passed. We would like for them to converge in order to have an impact on our coasts.”

“The Senate bill is the one I think is best in terms of what it contains,” Muller-Kargar said, “because it really focuses on the range of issues that Florida has to deal with, from conservation of coastal wetlands to how you have a good mechanism to provide scientific advice to managers in order to do the right things. And this bill in the Senate is trying to accomplish that by creation of a committee.”

“The House bill is going to create a council that is going to look into the resource and management task forces,” Wall said “By laying out where future funding, research and management needs to be applied, we’re going to be able to develop a more sound, science-based management that will allow for a better sustained ecosystem.”

Muller-Kargar pointed out one concern he had with House Bill 1627.

“It seems like somebody put in some pilot projects for their own funding and I’d like to not see these bills contaminated in this fashion, but rather be a bill that supports the entire population of Florida, not just one or two groups,” he said.

Florida waters are facing a multitude of issues that must be addressed soon, according to Wall.

“We need stronger regulations for coastal development. There is offshore mining that needs to be regulated that has great impact on our pelagic fish species. The fishermen that are out there need to make sure that there’s good regulations for that as well,” Wall said.

“Most people come to Florida in some way or other because they want to go to some beaches or because of the weather, and that’s all affected by the ocean,” said Muller-Kargar. “Our beaches are having problems. We have over two thousand beach closures a year because of pathogens. We have all sorts of pollution issues.”

Addressing the fishing industry in Florida, Muller-Kargar said there are many “fisheries that are under stress, from Grouper to others, and so that has to be taken care of.”

Much of Florida’s economy, especially in tourism, centers on its extensive coast.

“We’re seeing tremendous growth in the state and this is wonderful,” Muller-Kargar said. “We need to make sure we manage it carefully so we don’t destroy the very reason that people want to move to Florida.”