Hands down, the biggest threat to Florida's Gulf of Mexico fishery today is the oil gushing unchecked from a deep-water well off Louisiana's coast in the aftermath of the April 20 oil rig explosion.
The harm the oil slick poses to the state's fishing and tourism industries could run into the billions of dollars. But the fisheries have long been subject to other threats, too, most notably overfishing because of poor management practices and lack of enforcement of existing regulations.
Those threats will still be around after the oil leak is contained, which is why good management is so important to sustaining the fisheries for the long term. Fortunately, state and federal regulators have greatly improved their performance in recent years.
One example: red snapper. Much like stone crabs, red snapper is intrinsically linked to Florida and its marine bounty. After more than a decade of trying to rebuild the snapper population in the Gulf, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, which oversees state waters, and the National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal waters manager, are seeing small signs of success.
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