Western Dry Rocks New Regulations Beginning 4-1-21

Effective April 1, 2021, regulation changes will go into effect at Western Dry Rocks that prohibit fishing from April 1 – July 31. These changes are aimed at providing benefits for multiple recreationally and commercially important species that aggregate to spawn at Western Dry Rocks, including permit, mutton snapper, gray snapper, and yellowtail snapper. The Commission also adopted a seven-year sunset provision, which primarily will be used as a way to ensure the Commission can revisit this closure and discuss future management in this area.

Western Dry Rocks map

New Regulations effective April 1, 2021

FWC approves draft proposal to protect fish spawning aggregations near Western  Dry Rocks

 

With stony coral tissue loss disease affecting the majority of the Florida Reef Tract, spawning of wild and lab-reared corals takes on greater urgency. During the August 2019 spawning event, an interagency team of divers conducted field collections at Western Dry Rocks, off Key West, with swimming larvae transported to The Florida Aquarium for settlement and grow-out. Coral typically spawn only once per year and, in the wild, may be too far apart for spawn to mix naturally. So, eggs and sperm are collected and mixed by hand to ensure successful fertilization. The resulting larvae will settle in tanks to be used for future restoration activities.

Researchers at the University of Miami, Nova Southeastern University, Keys Marine Lab, and Mote Marine Lab observed spawning of rescued corals including great star coral, elliptical star coral, and boulder brain coral. The Florida Aquarium made history simulating ocean conditions in a laboratory to induce natural spawning of endangered pillar coral. Scientists believe the breakthrough could ultimately help save corals in the Florida Reef Tract from extinction.

Map of Buoys at Western Dry Rocks

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