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BISCAYNE NATIONAL PARK PUBLIC COMMENT

DECEMBER 9th, 10th & 11th

Biscayne National Park will hold three public comment sessions next week concerning its “Supplemental Draft General Management Plan” (GMP). CCA Florida encourages you to attend and voice your opinion. The National Park Service (NPS) GMP contains seven alternatives, two of which are new. Alternatives 6 and 7 each establish a “Special Recreation Zone” (SRZ). Under Alternative 6 the following rules will apply within the SRZ:

  • recreational fishing allowed year round but a special permit will be required:
  • hook and line fishing only
  • no grouper harvest allowed
  • no lobster harvest (recreational or commercial)
  • no spearfishing, with the exception of nonnative lionfish
  • anchoring is prohibited, additional mooring buoys to be installed

 

Under Alternative 6 access to the SRZ will be allowed based upon a limited number of annual permits (430 to recreational fishermen / 70 to guides / none for spear fishing). Alternative 7 is essentially identical to Alternative 6 except that it allows general access to the SRZ, but, it is completely closed to fishing during the summer months.

Alternate 6 is the NPS new preferred alternative and it eliminates the large marine reserve (no fishing zone) that was universally rejected by Florida's recreational anglers. The preferred alternative also removes the large no combustion engine zones and in their place includes slow-speed and no-wake zones.

CCA has concerns with the new preferred alternative offering such a limited number of annual permits. The plan does not require the permit to be used or forfeited; nor, does it allow for the issuance of short-term permits.

Shared permits would allow for more access and should include short duration access for visitors, including out of state anglers that desire to fish the Park as part of their vacation. The Preferred Alternative prohibits anchoring within the SRZ except when attached to a mooring buoy. Since there are very few of these mooring buoys currently in place, users will be effectively prohibited from fishing in many instances. CCA believes the NPS must also include a plan and fund additional mooring buoys to provide realistic access and avoid user conflicts. If, as suggested in the plan, there is concern for the SRZ’s grouper population, descending devices could be required. The NPS should also consider limited access for seasonal trolling for pelagic species.

 The NPS needs to address concerns of those who spearfish or fish east of the Park's boundary and that transit through the Park's SRZ as they return to port. Thus, direct transit through the SRZ with disallowed gear stowed should be permitted.

The NPS will hold three public comment sessions. All interested parties are encouraged to attend at least one of the three identical public meetings as follows:

1. December 9th, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Newman Alumni Center, University of Miami, 6200 San Amaro Drive, Coral Gables, FL

2. December 10th, 6:00 -9:00 p.m.

City Hall, Commission Chambers, 404 West Palm Drive, Florida City, FL

3. December 11th, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Holiday Inn Key Largo, 99701 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, FL

CCA Florida encourages you to attend and voice your concerns regarding the Preferred Alternative. Ask the NPS to increase the number of SRZ permits, set aside a number of permits for shared use including seasonal or split day access and require that permits which are not used within an established time period to be available for reassignment. Tell the NPS that the prohibition on anchoring should not be implemented until funding and installation of mooring buoys is undertaken. The Park Service must also provide for through transit of those who have legally taken fish outside the SRZ.

If you are unable to attend one of the comment sessions, please click here to review the GMP and electronically provide your comments.

 

Florida senator says next iteration of law cannot ignore recreational community

WASHINGTON, DC (11-15-13) – The latest hearing on the reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) took an encouraging turn yesterday as it became clear that something must be done to address shortcomings in the law as it relates to the management of recreational fisheries.

“I think the biggest take away from the testimony we will hear today is that Magnuson-Stevens, as currently drafted, simply does not work for the recreational fishing community,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl). “Faced with concerns over allocation and uncertain seasons – in some cases in the South Atlantic, no season at all! – our recreational fishermen have lost any semblance of faith in the federal management system.”

Read more: Rubio Charts Course for Magnuson Reauthorization

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                                                                CONTACT: Ted Forsgren

 

November 6, 2013                                                                                                     (407)702-3567

 

 

FIRST DISTRICT COURT OF APPEALS RULES

 TO REINSTATE THE STAY AND TAKE GILL NETS BACK OUT OF THE WATER

Late this afternoon the First District Court of Appeals (1st DCA) ruled in favor of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and reinstated the automatic stay that was ordered to be removed by Judge Fulford late last week. The removal of the stay by Judge Fulford allowed commercial netters to wage an assault on our fisheries for almost a week. Commercial netters flocked to Florida from Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina to participate in the gill net assault on Florida’s fisheries. 

BY ORDER OF THE COURT:

The appellant’s motion for reinstatement of automatic stay filed October 31, 2013, is granted, and the automatic stay imposed by Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.310(b)(2) is hereby reinstated. 

The appellees’ motion for certification filed October 23, 2013, is denied 

CCA Florida applauds the FWC for standing up to Judge Fulford’s outrageous ruling and for their efforts to protect Florida’s fisheries from gill nets. Attorney General Pam Bondi and attorney Jonathan Glogau deserve our highest commendation for their strong legal work in quickly stopping the slaughter. 

“This ruling is a step in the right direction but the fight is far from over. There is a much larger battle ahead. We need to stay focused on this issue and make sure it is put to bed once and for all” said CCA Florida Chairman, Jim Williams. CCA has filed in Florida’s 1st DCA on the side of the FWC to ask the appellate court to reverse Judge Jackie Lee Fulford’s order allowing gill netting in state waters. CCA Florida’s Chairman reiterated that, “we will spend every penny necessary to protect the constitutional ban on gill netting”. 

Now that gill nets are out of Florida’s waters, our attorneys can focus on reversing Judge Fulford’s original order. There will be months of legal maneuvering but, CCA will not rest so long as illegal netting is taking place in Florida’s waters. 

Florida’s recreational anglers are dedicated to protecting Florida’s marine resources and CCA Florida urges everyone to take a moment to contact your state representatives and senators to voice your concerns to ensure that gill nets never make it back in Florida waters.

Contribute to the CCA Florida Gill Net Legal Defense at www.ccaflorida.org 

Sign our petition at www.yousign.org/en/netbanpetition 

Join CCA Florida today at www.joinccaflorida.org

 

stay order

 

Net Memo_11-6-13__2__Page_1

 

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       FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                                                                CONTACT: Ted Forsgren

       November 6, 2013                                                                                                         (407)702-3567

 

CCA JOINS THE COURT BATTLE AGAINST COMMERCIAL GILL NETTERS’ SLAUGHTER OF SPAWNING MULLET

 

Today, CCA Florida filed in Florida’s First District Court of Appeal on the side of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to ask the appellate court to reverse Judge Jackie Lee Fulford’s order allowing gill netting in state waters. “CCA will spend every penny in its coffers to protect the constitutional ban on gill netting,” said CCA Chairman, Jim Williams. Last week, the Leon County Circuit Judge vacated an automatic stay of her controversial order of October 22nd enjoining statewide enforcement of the State’s 18 year old net ban. In doing so, she has assured an open season on Florida mullet stocks during the current spawning run. She has thumbed her nose at the citizens of the State of Florida who passed the constitutional amendment limiting marine net fishing in 1994 by a 72% margin.

The stay became automatic when the FWC filed an appeal of her net ban order. Lawyers for the Wakulla Commercial Fisherman’s Association moved to vacate the stay and Fulford granted the motion. CCA Florida stated that she has no idea how much damage she is causing by preventing the enforcement of the ban on gill nets.

The Court does not seem to understand the ecological importance of the mullet fishery for Florida’s inshore predatory species. Every species of predator fish eats mullet. Juvenile mullet exist by the millions in Florida estuaries as forage food for redfish, spotted sea trout, flounder, snook, tarpon, and many other species. The claim that “baby fish” are caught in smaller mesh nets is just a ploy created by the commercial netters. The tiny amounts described by the netters pale in comparison to the amount of juvenile fish taken by inshore predator fish. The only way to damage the mullet fishery is to overfish the spawning adults with three inch mesh or greater gill nets which is exactly what was happening before the ban on gill nets. Commercial gill netters favor these larger fish because they make more money.

In her initial ruling, the Judge noted that her, “…decision could in the interim, cause some turmoil.” CCA’s Ted Forsgren called her comment a huge understatement. “The massive schools of spawning mullet will be slaughtered by hundreds of netters returning to the coastline with their huge gill nets” said Forsgren. “Commercial netters from North Carolina to Louisiana are swarming to Florida to net the spawning fish.”

“Fulford’s ruling turns the gill netters loose on the spawners” said Forsgren. Millions of pounds of these roe filled (pregnant) mullet will be taken causing untold damage to mullet and other fisheries. In addition to spawning mullet, gill nets destroy other fish like snook, trout & redfish that are often found within the mullet aggregation.

“We trust that the First District Court of Appeal will rule quickly with the FWC and support common sense regulations that have protected Florida’s fisheries for the last 18 years,” said Williams.

To help fight this battle and donate to the “Gill Net Ban Legal Fund” visit www.ccaflorida.org

Join CCA Florida today at www.joinccaflorida.org

 

Leon County Circuit Judge Jackie Lee Fulford yesterday vacated an automatic stay of her controversial order of October 22nd enjoining statewide enforcement of the state’s 18-year-old net ban, virtually assuring an almost open season on Florida mullet stocks during the upcoming spawning season and essentially thumbing her nose at the will of voters of the State of Florida who passed the Constitutional Amendment Limiting Marine Net Fishing.

The stay of her order became automatic when the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), through the state Attorney General’s office, filed an appeal of her net ban order. Lawyers for the Wakull Commercial Fishermen’s Association, which originally brought the action that led to the net ban ruling, moved to vacate the stay, however, and Fulford granted that motion. “I do find that there is no irreparable harm if the stay is lifted, and that there is, in fact, irreparable harm if I do not lift the stay. The status quo, I believe in my opinion, has resulted in unnecessary killing and waste, and by adoption of the FWC rules after the net ban amendment, it’s resulted in unfair application of the net ban to some and not others,” Judge Fulford said at yesterday’s hearing.

Read more: CCA FLORIDA FINDS JUDGE JACKIE FULFORD’S RULING REGARDING FWC RULES USED TO IMPLEMENT THE...

For Immediate Release

Contact:
ASA This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. : 703.519.9691 x227
Center This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. : 225.382.3755
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IGFA This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. : 954.927.2628

WASHINTGON, DC (10-25-13) -- Senator David Vitter (R-La.) announced yesterday that he would “hold” the nominee to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) until he received a commitment that NOAA Fisheries would address the ongoing failure of the Agency to implement its own allocation policies and to provide some leadership and direction to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.

The focus of Senator Vitter on the key issue of fisheries allocation was lauded by the leading organizations in marine recreational fishing and boating: Coastal Conservation Association, American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, International Game Fish Association and National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Read more: Senator Vitter draws line for red snapper allocation

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                                   CONTACT: Ted Forsgren

 

October 24, 2013                                                                            (407)702-3567

 

 

 

CCA FLORIDA OPPOSES THE LATEST ATTEMPT BY COMMERCIAL NETTERS TO CIRCUMVENT THE GILL NET BAN

 

 

 

THE RECENT CIRCUIT JUDGE RULING IS ABSURD

 

 

        Once again a small group of commercial netters are trying to get the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to allow larger mesh sizes in nets so they can be used as gill nets. Circuit Court Judge Jackie Lee Fulford has issued a ruling that the use of net mesh size to define the difference between an illegal gill net and a legal seine net is a “legal absurdity” and has enjoined the enforcement of the Constitutional Amendment and the FWC rules implementing it!

 

“Judge Fulford has simply ignored almost 18 years of legal precedent on the issue and offered her own opinion” said Jim Williams, CCA Florida Chairman. “The 2 inch mesh size used by the FWC to define and clarify the difference between illegal gill nets and legal seine nets has resolved previous enforcement issues and successfully maintained the full intent of the Constitutional Amendment.”

 

            In November of 1994 an overwhelming 72% of Florida voters said “yes” to the Constitutional Amendment limiting marine net fishing. The amendment includes both a prohibition on the use of gill and entangling nets in all state waters and a size limit on other nets. Although the restrictions have been in place for nearly 18 years, there are still small factions within the commercial fishing industry that refuse to accept the legal reality that the constitutional prohibition on gill nets means no gill nets.

 

            Numerous administrative challenges and lawsuits have been filed over the last 18 years in an effort to challenge these regulations and allow the use nets that are currently outlawed. All of the attempts have failed as the Courts have supported the clear intent of the Constitutional Amendment. Early Court decisions have upheld the implementing rules which established a 2 inch size stretched mesh size as the “bright line distinction” between a legal seine net and an illegal gill net. The size was established based on the historic mesh sizes prior to the enactment of the gill net ban. The Courts ruled that the 2 inch maximum size for seine nets was “historically based, rational and practical”.

 

            “The commercial net fishermen in Wakulla County raised concerns about the viability of the allowable cast nets and seines with the 2 inch mesh to catch mullet; however, the commercial landing data shows a very different story” said CCA Florida’s Ted Forsgren. Landings data from the FWC indicate that mullet landings in Wakulla, Franklin, Jefferson, and Dixie Counties were 579,527 pounds in 2010 and 493,614 pounds in 2011. Total statewide landings of mullet in 2011 were 12.5 million pounds.

 

            The Constitutional Amendment and the implementing rules of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have brought inshore finfish populations to high levels of abundance. “Populations of mullet, redfish, sea trout and other fisheries are at all time highs and the increased abundance has allowed the FWC to reduce take restrictions on a number of species” said Forsgren.

 

“CCA Florida will continue to be the outspoken advocate and protector of the Constitutional Amendment which has protected Florida’s marine fisheries and the multibillion dollar economic impact to Florida’s economy,” said CCA Florida Chairman Jim Williams.

 

“30”

 

 

Dr. Russell Nelson, one of Florida’s best scientists and advocates for marine fisheries conservation, passed away unexpectedly, but peacefully at his home in Southeast Florida on October 5th. Russell shared his passion and love of the ocean and our marine resources with his wife, Ellen Peel. Russell is survived by his wife, Ellen, his mother Ruth, daughters Rebecca and Kate and his brothers Randall and Raymond.

Russell was a respected leader and advocate in many of the major conservation battles that improved fisheries in Florida as well as federal and international waters. “We are really going to miss him, his science background and his courage to stand firm for management regulations,” said Ted Forsgren of CCA Florida.

Read more: MARINE FISHERIES CONSERVATION LOSES A GREAT SCIENTIST AND STRONG ADVOCATE