Call to Action
CCA Florida would like to commend the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) and their officers in another job well done. In one of the latest cases three of their officers Chris Holleman, Sandy Blackburn and Tim Sweat out of Nassau County worked together to catch two men that were illegally taking redfish. These and other FWC Officers are always working hard to conserve and protect the resource and CCA is very appreciative for the added protection they bring to the coastal areas. For more on this case please see the FWC press release below.
Florida Fish and Wildlife
33 gigged redfish result in fines, jail time for violators
Possession of 33 gigged redfish recently resulted in fines and jail time for two Fernandina Beach men.
George Bartchlette (DOB 07/16/39) and Ronald Waters (DOB 09/25/65) were caught by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers with 33 redfish taken by illegal method.
FWC officers Chris Holleman, Sandy Blackburn and Tim Sweat worked the case.
“Officer Blackburn let me know a boat was headed my way,” said Holleman, who had been on patrol at Holly Point boat ramp in Nassau County. “I could hear the vessel’s engine running as they neared in the Nassau River. When they got inside Christopher Creek, they shut down the engine. I could hear the men walking in the marsh approximately 25 yards from the ramp just before they paddled into the ramp.”
The officers walked into the marsh and discovered two laundry baskets with 33 redfish. All the fish had punctures consistent with gig marks. There were 19 undersize redfish between 14.25 inches and 17.75 inches, one oversize redfish (29.5 inches) and 13 slot-size redfish.
“We seized the gigs and lights. The case went to the state’s attorney and we obtained arrest warrants for Bartchlette and Waters,” Holleman said.
Bartchlette was charged with over the bag limit, possession of undersize and oversize fish and illegal take because the fish had been gigged. Waters was charged with illegal take of two fish.
Both men were recently adjudicated guilty in Nassau County.
Waters was fined $1,003.
Bartchlette was fined $4,150 and sentenced to 30 days in jail. His seized equipment was forfeited to the FWC. In addition, Bartchlette received a $90 fine foroperating a vessel with no navigational lights.
“This was a great resource case,” said FWC Lt. Clint Thompson, patrol supervisor for Duval and Nassau counties. “The officers involved did an outstanding job.
“I’d also like to thank Nassau County Prosecutor Johnna Lessard, who did an outstanding job in prosecuting this case,” Thompson said.
For Immediate Release Contacts: Alex Conant / Brooke Sammon
Thursday, February 28, 2013 (202) 224-3041
SENATOR RUBIO ASKS FOR REVIEW OF STOCK ASSESSMENTS TO PROTECT FISHERIES AND FISHING COMMUNITIES IN GULF
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and senators from Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and North Carolina today sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office requesting a review of how the Department of Commerce conducts stock assessments in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. The stock assessments conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service are critical in maintaining the vitality of the fisheries, the fishing communities, and related industries in Florida and the region.
“Stock assessments are the foundation of sound fishery management,” said Rubio. “It is vital that, as we work to preserve the waters and resources surrounding Florida and other states, we base our management decisions on sound science. The report we’ve requested today will shed light on the decision-making process within the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and will help us to determine the best path forward so that we can ensure the economic livelihood of the fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic and the industries that depend on them.”
Rubio is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard. The letter is signed by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), David Vitter (R-LA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) and can be viewed by clicking here.
WHAT INDUSTRY EXPERTS ARE SAYING:
“Fishing organizations in the southeast, both commercial and recreational, salute Senator Marco Rubio for leading the effort to require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) to provide the basic science needed for honest stock assessments,” said Bob Jones, Executive Director of Southeastern Fisheries Association. “The numbers of fish calculated in the federal waters through stock assessments are critical in determining quotas, seasons, allowable gear, bycatch and all aspects pertaining to the commercial and recreational harvest of seafood. The fishing and tourism industry dependent on fresh local seafood thanks all the Senators who are working to improve the management of our sustainable marine resources.”
“As Chairman of the Data Collection Committee at the Gulf Council, I see first-hand how our lack of updated fisheries data strikes at the heart of our ability to make sound management decisions that protect both our natural resources AND our fishermen,” said Harlon Pearce, member of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council. “We need to get to the bottom of where our data collection resources are being spent and this full GAO investigation is a great step in the right direction.”
“Robust biological and socioeconomic data are critical to the management of our nation’s fisheries,” said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). “Unfortunately this information has been lacking for many important fisheries, particularly those in the southeast. ASA is grateful that Senator Rubio understands the need for improved science to drive management and is working towards that end.”
“Sound science matters,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “Senator Rubio’s leadership brings focus to the critical need for science-based management of America’s marine fishery resources.”
FACTS ABOUT THE FISHING INDUSTRY:
Call to Action
CCA Florida would like for our members to become involved and voice their opinions in a very important issue that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) and Chairman Wright are spearheading. FWC will hold webinars concerning Sport Fish and Game Fish designations on December 10th and 12th from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. The FWC is asking for your help and would like for you to join in and give your comments. Some of the aspects of the Game Fish and Sport Fish designations have received mixed reviews among Florida anglers and we need your input. CCA will continue to work closely with FWC concerning this issue. Your comments are very important and CCA Florida encourages you to participate and voice your opinion.
Please click HERE to see the full press release regarding the webinars and how to attend them. If you have any questions please contact Trip Aukeman at 850-559-0060.
Please click HERE to review the FWC's Game Fish and Sport Fish PowerPoint presentation as well as the following press release that the FWC sent out following their December 5th meeting in which the Game Fish and Sport Fish Designations were discussed.
For immediate release: December 5, 2012
Contact: Amanda Nalley, 850-410-4943
FWC Commission considering creating saltwater game fish and sport fish designations
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) discussed the possibility of creating saltwater game fish and sport fish designations at its Dec. 5 Commission meeting in Apalachicola. After public comment from 18 people and the Commissioners’ discussion, the FWC decided to approve the proposed draft rule about the designation. The Commission will possibly make a final decision on this measure at its February meeting in Orlando.
While Florida has many recreationally important species, it does not have an official saltwater game fish or sport fish designation.
Reasons for considering these changes include helping highlight and protect some of Florida’s premier recreational fish and encouraging anglers to adopt voluntary conservation practices such as catch-and-release. If adopted, these changes could lead to healthier fish populations and help Florida market its unique fishing opportunities to residents and visitors.
“I think it’s an opportunity for this Commission to create a lasting legacy,” said Chairman Kenneth Wright. “I think it will send a signal to fishermen around the world that we are a world-class fishing destination.”
At the meeting, staff presented the Commission with potential game fish and sport fish definitions and described how fish within these designations could be managed.
Suggested parameters for game fish would include no commercial harvest, possession or sale.
The sport fish designation would offer a higher level of protection than game fish by making selected species catch-and-release only, including no recreational harvest as well as no commercial harvest, possession or sale.
Before moving forward with the proposal, the Commission decided to remove a parameter that would have limited gear to hook-and-line only for both designations. They also removed another parameter that was proposed for the game fish designation only that would have required captain and crew of for-hire vessels such as charter boats to have a bag limit of zero and not be allowed to take fish home for themselves.
Which fish species will be included under the game fish or sport fish designations will not be decided at the February Commission meeting. If game fish and sport fish designations are approved, staff will return to future meetings with suggestions for potential fish species candidates.
Recreational fishing in Florida has a high cultural and economic value, and protecting Florida’s premier recreational fish is a priority of the Commission.
. Learn more by visiting MyFWC.com/Fishing – click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Rulemaking” and “Workshops.”
November 28, 2012Dr. Jane LubchencoUnder Secretary of Commerce for Oceans andAtmosphere and NOAA AdministratorHerbert Clark Hoover Building14th Street & Constitution Avenue, N.W.Room 5128Washington, DC 20230
Dear Dr. Lubchenco:
We in the sportfishing community were appreciative of the effort you and Eric Schwaab made to improve communication and relationships through the Saltwater Recreational Summit held in Virginia at the beginning of your term as Administrator of NOAA. There were many important commitments made at that meeting, particularly ones made by you. While you have followed through on some of those commitments, there is one very notable exception that is quite concerning to us.
At that meeting in 2010, you noted that the allocation process between sport and commercial fisheries was "rusted shut" and many mixed sector fisheries are operating on outdated allocations based on history rather than optimizing socioeconomic values for the future. You stated that if we are really serious about maximizing jobs and economic value for the future, we have to address this issue regularly and with a standardized, analytical approach.
While we were pleased to have Eric follow up and commission former State Director George Lapointe to survey many of us as to what approaches would be needed, we were concerned that many on the Fishery Management Councils and some NOAA Fisheries Service staff opposed this effort and did not want the issue of allocation systematically reviewed. This pushback was expected, and is symptomatic of the agency culture that has always favored a stable commercial fishery and regarded the sportfish industry as an after-thought. It is this culture that locked in allocations in the first place.
We understand that the report prepared by Mr. Lapointe was submitted to NOAA Fisheries almost a year ago and, as far as we can tell, no meaningful action has been taken on it since submission. We are writing you to express our continuing apprehension that your first term as NOAA Administrator may expire without action on reallocation. There is still time to follow through and complete the development of a systematic framework to regularly review allocation, but it clearly requires your continuing commitment and leadership to unlock the inner workings of NOAA Fisheries that are rusted shut on this issue.
Please review this important situation and ensure that your commitment to us at the Summit has not been lost in process. Good progress on this issue was made initially, but we must guard against defenders of the status quo smothering this initiative with inertia and inaction.
You have asked us to hold you and Eric accountable to these commitments and while we are respectfully doing that, we are also offering our assistance to keep this process moving forward.
Thank you for your attention to this important issue.
Mike Nussman, President
American Sportfishing Association
Pat Murray, President
Coastal Conservation Association
Jeff Angers, President
Center for Coastal Conservation
Jeff Crane, President
Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
Rob Kramer, President
International Game Fish Association
Thom Dammrich, President
National Marine Manufacturers Association
Jim Martin, President
Berkley Conservation Institute
CCA Applauds FWC for Uncovering Commercial Illegal Wildlife Ring
For immediate release: November 14, 2012
Contact: Katie Purcell
FWC Community Relations Coordinator
Division of Law Enforcement
FWC Investigation Uncovers Illegal Commercial Wildlife Ring
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers completed a comprehensive investigation Wednesday that included more than 200 criminal violations by 21 individuals in Orange, Lake, Osceola, Polk and St. Lucie counties. The 22-month operation targeted individuals who illegally bought fish and wildlife products in Florida and shipped them out of state to be sold to the public.
“The suspects were ultimately working together in a criminal conspiracy,” said Maj. Curtis Brown, head of the FWC’s Investigations section.
Officers determined the suspects were buying products from poachers and unlicensed individuals and shipping them to markets out of state. Today, they shut them down. Those out-of-state markets are still being investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“This was a large-scale illegal poaching operation with serious implications for the environment, economy and public health,” Brown said.
The suspects made one or two trips a month, transporting 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of product each trip to its markets.
“They placed orders that included one for 900 pounds of poached white-tailed deer and another for 500 pounds of illegal snook,” Brown said.
To date, the operation has identified 21 suspects. The criminal charges include 147 misdemeanor violations and 75 felony violations. Ten suspects were arrested and taken to local county jails today; the rest were issued notices to appear.
Undercover officers successfully infiltrated the illegal operations and were able to gather sufficient evidence of the crimes. The species involved include grouper, snapper, trout, redfish, snook, bass, bream, catfish, deer, turkey, ducks and alligator.
“Some of those are restricted species,” Brown said. “Over-harvesting, taking them out of season or taking them by illegal methods harms the resource, undermining conservation efforts.”
The FWC says shutting down illegal operations like this is also important for public health. When game is harvested and sold illegally, it does not go through the same processes or undergo the same food health inspections necessary to protect the public.
“The public has a right to purchase safe, legally harvested products without concern for the safety of their food,” Brown said.
Shutting down this operation also benefits the local economy. Illegal activities can seriously impact legal businesses.
“For example, there are deer farmers and commercial fishermen who harvest and sell their products legally,” Brown said. “Individuals who operate illegally often sell their products cheaper, essentially stealing profits from the law-abiding businesses.”
In addition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the FWC worked with partner organizations including the National Wild Turkey Federation, Humane Society of the United States and Ducks Unlimited.
“This was a great team effort to support our legal commercial markets, protect Florida’s valuable natural resources and allow the public to safely enjoy them,” Brown said.
The public can help by reporting to the FWC suspected violations of illegally harvesting or selling fish and wildlife. To make a report, call the Wildlife Alert hotline (888) 404-FWCC or