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CCA Florida History: A History of Conservation

 1985 The Florida Conservation Association (FCA) becomes the fifth state chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association.

1986 FCA successfully intervenes in lawsuits filed by commercial interests opposing Spanish mackerel recovery plans. CCA National is successful in stopping purse seining of spawning redfish in the Gulf of Mexico.

1987 FCA merges with the Everglades Protection Association. FCA joins with CCA in efforts to bring about a management plan to protect billfish from longliners.

1988 FCA wins a four year battle to achieve gamefish status for Florida's depleted redfish stocks. Redfish becomes the first species since 1957 to be removed from Florida's market. U.S. Secretary of Commerce signs FCA-supported management plan for billfish, marking the first time federal authorities have declared a gamefish in federal waters.

FCA successfully promotes passage of legislation to protect tarpon by preventing unnecessary killing and encouraging catch and release. The new law requires the purchase of a 50 dollar tag in order to harvest a tarpon.

1989 FCA achieves major legislative victory establishing the first recreational saltwater fishing license in Florida with license revenues protected and directed to marine fisheries management, research and law enforcement.

1990 FCA plays a major role as the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council bans drift gill nets.

1991 FCA is instrumental in persuading the South Atlantic Council to ban fish traps from Florida's east coast federal waters.

1992 The Save our Sealife Committee (S.O.S.) is formed to initiate a constitutional amendment petition drive to limit marine net fishing in Florida state waters. FCA members take the lead in collecting a national record 201,000 petitions in a single day.

1993 FCA legal action results in the establishment of a purse seine netting sanctuary in the entire Tampa Bay coastal region to protect and restore commercially-devastated forage fish stocks.

1994 More than 550,000 petitions are collected to put the S.O.S. Amendment on the Florida state ballot. The Amendment is approved by Florida's voters by a 72 percent margin.

1995 FCA intervenes in four lawsuits to help the State of Florida defend the S.O.S. Amendment from commercial industry lawsuits. FCA leads the fight against the introduction of damaging bottom-dragging trawls for finfish leading to a rule banning the gear. Florida's Governor and Cabinet approve an FCA-backed seatrout restoration plan that limits commercial fishing and implements more restrictive recreational limits.

1996 As a result of an FCA Special Report on poaching, the legislature passes a bill increasing fines and penalties and closing several loopholes in fishery laws. FCA also focuses statewide attention on the "tarp scam nets," and successfully supports a law mandating by-catch reduction devices on all shrimp trawls in the N.E. Florida region. The FCA board votes to change the organization's name from "Florida Conservation Association" to "Coastal Conservation Association Florida."

FCA is instrumental in getting the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council to enact a 10 year phase out to ban fish traps from Florida's west coast federal waters.

1997 With strong CCA Florida backing, the Florida legislature enacts a major fishery conservation act that codifies the MFC's authority to enforce the net ban, outlaws tarp "scam" nets, and imposes tougher penalties on repeat violators. The state and CCA Florida also win a major three-year legal battle when the Florida Supreme Court rejects commercial industry arguments and finds the net ban constitutional.

1998 CCA enters into a campaign to alert the public and state government to the problem of widespread illegal netting activities leading to passage of major anti-poaching legislation. At the urging of conservation organizations, including CCA Florida, the Constitution Revision adopts a revision to unify the fish and wildlife agencies into a more effective and independent Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The amendment passes with a 72 percent margin.

A five-year effort ends successfully when Florida becomes the first state bordering the Gulf of Mexico to mandate the use of by-catch reduction devices in shrimp trawls in all state waters.

1999 CCA Florida works with the South Atlantic Council to get specific recommendations incorporated in the Council's proposed management plan for dolphin and wahoo.

CCA Florida's request for an investigation into rising numbers of commercially-harvested pompano reveals large-scale illegal netting. CCA Florida also helps to guide the FWC hatchery program toward a major redfish stocking project in Tampa Bay.

2000 CCA National takes the lead in advocating congressional legislation to prohibit drift longlines off Florida, Georgia and South Carolina and establish large time/area closures in the Gulf. Ultimately, NMFS implements closed areas off Florida and Georgia that are virtually identical to the federal legislation.

2001 CCA intervenes in a federal lawsuit by commercial interests that attempts to stop time and area longline closures.

CCA Florida is instrumental during the Legislative session in acquiring $435,000 for the FWC saltwater hatchery and two artificial reef budget items totaling $1.5 million. The redfish stocking program releases the one millionth fingerling in Tampa Bay.

As a result of CCA research, FWC staff begin identifying actions to resolve illegal netting problems.

CCA Florida becomes involved in manatee protection plans because of closed-door negotiations over settlement of a lawsuit filed by environmental and animal welfare groups. The FWC incorporates several CCA amendments. CCA Florida produces the Fraser Report, "Manatees in Florida: 2001."

CCA documents illegal netting of pompano in state waters resulting in the adoption of new conservation measures by the FWC. Measures based on CCA recommendations are also adopted for west coast snook.

The FWC adopts new statewide cobia regulations which, with the exception of a two-per-person commercial limit, are the same as the CCA Florida recommendations. At CCA Florida's urging, the FWC endorses the Gulf Council's red grouper plan to prohibit the use of bottom longlines out to 50 fathoms.

CCA Florida successfully mobilizes public opposition to the South Atlantic Council's proposed list of 40 new no-fishing zones, 19 of which are proposed for Florida's east coast. The number of proposed areas off Florida is reduced to four which would only be designated for protection of deepwater snapper/grouper spawning areas.

2002 CCA Florida works to block a Gulf Council proposal to prohibit recreational harvest of all grouper for four months as part of a red grouper recovery plan.

CCA Florida helps pass amendments to state manatee legislation that requires the FWC to establish "measurable biological goals" for manatees and to use local review panels when developing regulations.

At CCA's urging, the FWC completes a "Preliminary Biological Status Review" which finds no evidence that manatee populations have declined over the past 45 years. The report also recommends that the species status should be re-classified from "Endangered" to "Threatened."

CCA successfully opposes expansion of commercial shrimp trawling into recreational shrimping and fishing areas in the St. Johns River that had been closed to trawling for 20 years.

2003 CCA Florida releases a special report, Failures and Exploitation Bias in Federal Fishery Management Programs — Recommendations for Systemic Changes.

An FWC assessment of inshore waters, done at CCA's request, reveals that more than one quarter of a million acres are already in manatee protection zones. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service appoints a CCA Florida representative to the Steering Committee of the Florida Manatee Recovery Team.

During the Legislative session, CCA works to acquire $600,000 for Florida's artificial reef program and an additional $194,000 for shallow-water gag grouper reefs.

At CCA's urging, the FWC adopts measures against illegal netting by defining transit laws and banning the use of "toy boats" that allowed the use of multiple nets.

CCA exposes questionable techniques in a NMFS study of surface trolling in deep water grouper protection areas in the northern Gulf. A compromise is reached that allows trolling in areas where bottom fishing is closed.

Habitat restoration programs plant 20,000 mangroves in the Indian River Lagoon and places 40 tons of oyster shells to create bars in Tampa Bay.

A CCA-supported sargassum protection plan passes after six years of deliberations by federal councils and NMFS.

2004 With strong CCA backing, a new law increases the penalty for major net ban violations from a misdemeanor to a felony.

The First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee upholds a legal decision by the FWC which asserted that a "hybrid" commercial net was not legal. CCA Florida intervened in the lawsuit.

CCA national intervenes in a lawsuit seeking to create no-fishing zones in two grouper spawning preserves in the northern Gulf despite a compromise between NMFS and CCA that allows surface trolling while protecting grouper stocks.

CCA Florida representatives work with the Biscayne National Park Fishery Working Group to make recommendations on proposed no-entry and no-fishing zones in Biscayne Bay.

CCA Florida urges the FWC to establish stronger protection for large permit which are vulnerable when aggregated on wrecks .

Research published by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission indicates that no-fishing zones may not fulfill expectations as replenishment zones.

2005 Based on questionable data, NMFS enacts an interim rule reducing the bag limit of all Gulf grouper and closing the Gulf to recreational grouper fishing for two months. CCA Florida files a lawsuit challenging NMFS's authority to use an interim rule to stop fishing for all grouper species. In a huge win for saltwater anglers, the U.S. District Court rules in favor of CCA, stopping the two-month closure and restoring the bag limit.

CCA turns back a plan by NMFS to issue "research" permits to longline boats to fish in areas where the gear is banned. The areas off Florida's East coast and in the Gulf have been closed to commercial swordfish longlining for several years resulting in a dramatic recovery of sailfish, swordfish, dolphin and wahoo.

CCA Florida stops legislation that would have authorized the use of 500-square-foot gill nets. A related attempt to put a constitutional amendment on the 2006 ballot to have the independent constitutional authority of the FWC removed is also stopped.

At CCA's urging, the FWC passes a rule that limits the number of large permit over 20 inches that may be possessed aboard a vessel, thus preventing substantial numbers of large permit from being taken when the fish are aggregated over wrecks.

CCA files legal action petitioning the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to stop the overfishing of Gulf red snapper by shrimp trawls. The recovery goals to reduce the directed commercial and recreational take of red snapper have been achieved through size, bag and season limits; however, the trawl damage continues to undermine the recovery plan.

Although more than 200 square miles of no-fishing zones have been enacted around the Dry Tortugas National Park, another attempt is made to close another 46 square miles to all fishing--even catch and release. A joint federal/state management plan is approved. However, at CCA's urging, the Florida Cabinet withholds approval of the fisheries plan until recommendations can be provided by the FWC, which has exclusive authority over fishing in the area designated for closure.

2006 CCA Florida was able to convince FWC after five years to reclassify Manatees. FWC staff recommended

moving manatees from endangered to threatened. This helped keep open many recreational fishing areas that were proposed to be closed.

CCA Florida helps the FWC increase snook spawning potential ratio of 40%. CCA Florida recommends raising the lower end of the current slot size by one inch. The FWC adopts these recommendations unanimously.

2007 CCA files lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in forcing action to greatly reduce the damage by shrimp trawlers. The federal judges' ruling in support of CCA directs NMFS to immediately address their failure to regulate the damage to Gulf red snapper caused by shrimp trawls.

CCA Florida joins with numerous state and local angling groups and organizations to oppose proposed Everglades National Park general management plan alternatives which would dramatically restrict boating and angler access in the Park.

CCA Florida helps to reject another attempt by swordfish longliners to move back into areas along Florida's east coast.

Florida Supreme Court rules against netting interests. CCA Florida helps to defend the FWC netting rule when efforts from netters to try and use seine nets with any size mesh, which would essentially be a gill net, are challenged.

CCA Florida works successfully with FWC to promote and adopt proactive snook management measures which will achieve the 40% spawning potential ration resource protection goal.

At the urging of CCA Florida, the FWC Commissioners established a new process to have the Commission become active in federal fishery issues and establish policies and recommendations for major fisheries issues.

2008 With continued prompting from CCA Florida, the FWC Commissioners once again reject efforts to subvert the constitutional ban on gill nets. Although the constitutional netting restrictions have been in place for nearly fifteen years, there are still factions within the commercial industry who refuse to accept the legal reality that the constitutional prohibition on gillnets means no gill nets.

CCA Florida works with FWC in providing vital information to the Gulf Council about the reduced angler fishing effort caused by economic issues. The result was a plan that achieved resource protection goals with much less impact on the recreational fishery.

CCA Florida joins the Wildlife Foundation of Florida and the FWC in the saltwater hatchery and habitat initiative to help ensure healthy fisheries for generations to come.

CCA recommends with success that the Gulf Council and National Marine Fisheries Service take emergency action to prohibit bottom longline gear in the Gulf of Mexico off of Florida due to the excess take of seaturtles. The Gulf Council implemented a six month closure on the longline fishery.

CCA expanded its member volunteer program to get advisory panel and other appointments for federal fishery councils and advisory panels and FWC stakeholder committees. The purpose is to expand our influence in fishery related programs. There are currently 2 CCA Florida members on federal fishery councils, 5 members on CCA fishery committees, 11 members on federal advisory panels, and 9 members on other assorted state panels, committees and stakeholder groups.

CCA Florida began the Conservation Law Enforcement Recognition Program. In coordination with FWC Law Enforcement leaders, officers who excel in conservation enforcement were selected and recognized at our chapter banquets throughout the year.

2009 CCA Florida lobbies successfully with the FWC to repeal the shoreline exemption from Florida's saltwater fishing license. The repeal ensures better data collection for Florida's fisheries and, most importantly, will save Florida anglers from having to pay 20 million dollars in additional federal angler registration fees

CCA Florida worked with Everglades National Park in their general management plan to rebuild damaged seagrass beds using bird stakes and also provided recommendations to keep angler access at a maximum.

CCA Florida works to assure angler access by providing recommendations and public testimony on numerous attempts to unnecessarily restrain access, including the attempted creation of no motor zones as mitigation for maintenance dredging in Lee County.

CCA files a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Commerce, NMFS, and NOAA to revaluate Amendment 29. Amendment 29 gives away a majority share of Gulf grouper to the commercial fishing industry through a catch share program.

2010 At the urging of CCA Florida and others, the FWC extends state waters protection regulations, and no sale status, for bonefish into adjacent federal waters. FWC also begins rulemaking to extend Florida waters protection to permit into federal waters.

CCA Florida works with other CCA Gulf states and FWC to address damages and recovery plans resulting from the massive Deepwater Horizon oil well blow out. CCA Florida was selected to serve on Governor's Oil Spill Economic Recovery Task Force. CCA works closely with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to reopen the recreational red snapper fishery when the 2010 recreational quota was not met as a result of the oil spill closures.

Following the devastating winter 2009/2010 freeze kill of snook, CCA Florida works with FWC to adopt regulations to restore and protect snook.

CCA Florida opposes proposed new FWC regulations to increase take of redfish which would place the highly successful existing management plan at risk.

CCA and CCA Florida raise major concerns regarding the science and management measures proposed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council for red snapper and strongly opposed proposals to close 5,000 square miles to bottom fishing for 74 species of fish.

2011 CCA worked with others to get FWC to extend state water protection of Permit into federal waters.

CCA Florida worked with FWC and other stakeholders to remove the recreational closed months for Spotted Seatrout and defeated a push by commercial fisherman to allow a seine net by-catch fishery.

CCA Florida worked with the FWC on the proposed regulations to increase take of redfish; while CCA did oppose the increase we understand the science shows the increase is viable and we will continue to monitor the Redfish in the state.

CCA Florida raised major concerns over Biscayne National Parks will to include fisheries management in the general management plan after there was a memorandum of understanding between the Biscayne National Park and The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to include the FWC in any fisheries management decisions.

2012 CCA Florida opposes a lawsuit brought by commercial net fishermen who are suing the FWC in an attempt to increase the mesh size in nets so as to allow the use of gill nets. We have been involved in numerous attempts by commercial fishers to circumvent or eliminate the Constitutional prohibition on the use of gill and entangling nets. CCA Florida will continue to monitor the lawsuit. In addition, we have obtained an attorney to participate in the suit to support the FWC and protect the gill net prohibition.

CCA Florida and the Lee County Department of Natural Resources partnered to sink the USCGC Mohawk as an artificial reef off of Ft. Myers. The 165 foot WW II Coast Guard Cutter was placed in 90 feet of water and will become a major source of habitat and recreational fishing.

The National Marine Fisheries Service issued an intent notice to begin a process to allow pelagic longlines in the Florida East Coast and Charleston Hump area of the South Atlantic. The NMFS and commercial longliners have attempted several times to put longliners into the protected areas under the guise of research. CCA Florida, CCA and other major recreational fishing groups strongly objected to the proposal and organized efforts to send objections to NMFS. CCA Florida was instrumental in getting the FWC to renew their strong opposition to the NMFS proposal.

CCA is working with the Congressional Sportsman's Caucus and the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council to stop sector separation in the recreational fisheries.

CCA Florida worked closely with the FWC in reviewing the new stock assessments on snook. We helped to modify management measures to return to normal regulations in areas where snook had recovered from the devastating impacts of the 2009/2010 freeze.

CCA Florida prevented the transferability of commercial food shrimp permits in Tampa Bay. The phase out of commercial shrimping in Tampa Bay was enacted in the early 1990's. The elimination of the bay food shrimpers had a very positive impact on the recovery of seagrasses in the bay. All but four of the permits had been removed. Allowing permits to be sold or transferred would have opened the door for new permits to be issued in the bay.

CCA Florida was involved in oyster, seagrass, and mangrove restoration projects throughout the state. We worked closely with Tampa Bay Watch, The University of Central Florida, The Sportsman's Fund and many others to complete successful restoration programs.