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Florida approves Dry Tortugas reserve

Establishment of a reserve in the Dry Tortugas will help protect coral reefs
Establishment of a reserve in the Dry Tortugas will help protect coral reefs  

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- Gov. Jeb Bush and the Florida Cabinet voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a reserve in the remote Dry Tortugas, some 70 miles west of Key West.

The move bans both commercial and recreational fishing and creates the largest no-fishing zone in U.S. waters, according to the World Wildlife Fund, an environmental group. Anchoring would also be prohibited in the area, but some recreational diving would still be allowed.

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The move places 77.2 square nautical miles of state waters in this protected status, adding to 73.9 square nautical miles of federal waters already in the reserve. Another 46 square nautical miles is still subject to approval by the U.S. Department of the Interior because it falls within the Dry Tortugas National Park.

The reserve will encompass reefs, seagrass beds, spawning sites and various habitats.

"We are so pleased by Florida's decision," said Kathryn Fuller, president of the wildlife fund. "The Tortugas Reserve will not only protect an irreplaceable, high-biodiversity coral reef ecosystem; it will also help replenish depleted fisheries throughout the Keys and beyond, benefiting fishermen too."

The area had never been considered for oil and gas drilling and is not related to the ongoing debate about drilling off the Florida coast. The Bush administration has said it supports domestic drilling, a position that could put it at odds with Gov. Jeb Bush, the brother of the president.



RELATED STORIES:
Counting fish adds up for marine protection
July 10, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
National Marine Sanctuaries
Dry Tortugas National Park
U.S. Coral Reef Task Force

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