CONTACT: Trip Aukeman 850-559-0060
October 09, 2012
Coastal Conservation Association Urges
Judge to Uphold Mesh Size Limitation on Gill Nets
~Commercial netting interests attempt to convince the judge to allow larger mesh~
ST. MARKS, Fla. Commercial netting interests are once again trying to manipulate the State into allowing larger mesh sizes in fishing nets and improperly using them as gill nets, the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida said today.
The commercial fisherman say that as a result of the States regulations on net mesh size, the current nets are catching primarily juvenile fish before they have the chance to mature into adult fish.
The reality, however, is that these commercial fisherman are catching more mullet than they can sell. Earlier this year there was approximately 60,000 pounds of dead mullet found floating off Floridas coast with just the roe taken out. With the market price around 73 cents a pound it cannot withstand any more mullet in the stores or the price would plummet and there would be no profit.
In November 1994, an overwhelming 72 percent of Floridians voted yes on 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 17 years, there are still factions within the commercial industry who refuse to accept the legal reality of the constitutional prohibition on gill nets.
Since 1994, there have been numerous lawsuits, attempts to create enforcement loopholes, and outright scams all designed to invalidate or circumvent provisions of the constitutional amendment. All have failed.
The commercial fishermen have gone to court again in an attempt to overturn key provisions in the 1994 net ban. Hoping to convince Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford of their side of the issue, a St. Marks commercial mullet fisherman took to the waters early one Friday morning to give the Judge a demonstration of the way they fish their nets. The commercial boat was followed by an FWC boat that was transporting Judge Fulford. However, he didnt show her the whole picture.
According to the Coastal Conservation Association, the fisherman spent unnecessary time searching in the St. Marks River inlets, creeks and bays to locate the perfectly sized fish to prove his point. When he found the right spot and cast the nets, he retrieved them like a gill net, instead of properly like a seine net, which caused more of the small fish to be caught in the net and very few legal size fish were caught. Only three net sets were made in about two and a half hours. This manipulated presentation to the judge depicted the idea that the nets are inadequate and the State needs to allow larger mesh netting.
The Florida Legislature, Florida courts and state agencies have upheld the clear intent of Florida voters, said Ted Forsgren, Special Advisor to CCA Florida. It is imperative that Judge Fulford thoroughly reviews all the previous legal decisions and conclusions of law and respect the citizen mandate and constitutional ban on gill nets.
Commercial net fishers have other legal options to catch mullet. Many use hand-thrown cast nets in conjunction with seine nets. The seine nets with two-inch or less mesh corral the fish, which are then caught by the cast nets. Cast nets are also used during fall migrations in rivers and bays when mullet are aggregated in large schools. Landings data confirms the viability of using cast nets and other legal nets. In the four-county area of Wakulla, Franklin, Jefferson and Dixie County commercial fishermen landed 493,614 pounds of mullet in 2011 and 579,027 pounds in 2010. Statewide more than 12.5 million pounds of mullet were landed in 2011.
For more information or to join CCA Florida, please visit CCA Floridas website at www.ccaflorida.org.
South Atlantic Red Snapper Season set to Re-Open
NOAA Fisheries Announces Opening Dates
A fishery that has been closed for three years now due to over-fishing is set to re-open in September of 2012. The South Atlantic Marine Fisheries Council (SAMFC) met in June of 2012 and discussed the options of a short season for Red Snapper in the South Atlantic. The SAMFC recommended to NOAA Fisheries that a limited harvest period be permitted on the east coast. The season will consist of two, three day weekends for recreational anglers, along with a small commercial harvest. CCA supported the opening if doing so would not delay the rebuilding plan or do harm to the stock. CCA told the Council that this fishery is a good candidate formanagement as primarily a recreational fishery in the South Atlantic, and that the greatest overall benefit to the country would be achieved by allocating most, if not all, of the catch to the recreational fishery.
NOAA Fisheries set the new recreational fishing season to open for two consecutive weekendsmade up of Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. This season pertains to the South Atlantic Ocean only. The recreational red snapper season opens at 12:01 a.m., local time, on September 14, 2012, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local time, on September 17, 2012; the season then reopens at 12:01 a.m., local time, on September 21, 2012, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local time, on September 24, 2012. During the open recreational season, the bag limit is one fish per person per day and there is no minimum size limit for the red snapper.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and its research institute (FWRI) will be very involved in data collection on the east coast of Florida. The FWRI is asking that recreational fishermen help with the data as they fish for Red Snapper in the Atlantic Ocean. The FWRI has set up drop off locations along the coast for red snapper carcasses. The Institute will gather critical data from the carcasses, such as age and growth rates, along with the overall health of the fishery. Please do your part for the fishery and instead of throwing the carcass out put them back on ice and take the carcasses to one of the confirmed drop off locations along the eastcoast of Florida. For a list of these and any other locations that have been added please click here. Officers and staff of CCA urge each of you to assist in this data collection, and do not see any negative effect to the recreational fisherman for providing your assistance.
Carcass drop off locations:
Fernandina Harbor Marina
3 S. Front Street
Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
St. Johns River entrance
Sister Creek Boat Ramp
8364 Heckscher Dr.
Jacksonville, FL, 32226
Conch House Marina
57 Comares Avenue
St. Augustine, FL 32080
Inlet Harbor Marina
133 Inlet Harbor Road
Ponce Inlet, FL 32127
Fishin Cove Marina
111 N Riverside Drive
New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168
505 Glen Cheek Drive
Cape Canaveral, FL 32920
Fort Pierce Inlet:
3595 Northeast Indian River Drive
Jensen Beach, FL 34957
6919 Portwest, Suite 100, Houston, TX 77024
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 26, 2012 CONTACT: Ted Venker, 1-800-201-FISH
Congress weighs in on Gulf Councils sector separation scheme
Sportsmens Caucus urges Council to step back from unpopular catch shares, sector separation
WASHINGTON, DC â€“ In another sign of discontent over federal management of the nations marine fisheries, co-chairmen of the Congressional Sportsmens Caucus (CSC) have sent a letter to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council expressing the concerns of its membership over the concepts of catch share programs and sector separation. The bipartisan CSC is one of the largest and most effective caucuses in the US Congress with more than 300 members representing almost all 50 states.
â€œAs leaders of the Caucus, we are writing to report that continued consideration and promotion of the management concepts known as sector separation and catch shares by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council are causing concern among our members,â€ CSC co-chairmen Jeff Miller (R-Fl.) and Mike Ross (D-Ar.) state in the letter. â€œMore specifically, we have serious concerns about the current proposal to further subdivide the recreational fishing allocation by awarding the charter boats with their own guaranteed allocation.â€
The CSC goes on to question the process the Gulf Council is using to develop and implement sector separation and catch share programs, and points out that the Council first needs better scientific data, additional economic evaluations and demographic studies to assess how mixed used fisheries would best be reallocated.
â€œEven if such reallocation issues were analyzed and modified, taking a portion of the allocation from the recreational sector for the proposed charter boat sector has the potential to decrease the funding available for state fisheries management,â€ the CSC states. â€œThe members of the Caucus are well acquainted with the successes of state-based conservation, which is almost entirely guided and funded by sportsmen and the money they spend on fishing and hunting. The sportsmens ethic of stewardship is at the heart of the American System of Conservation Funding and is built, in part, on the foundation of individual anglers recreational fishing activities.â€
The letter from the CSC is yet another unequivocal message from elected officials to federal fishery managers in opposition to sector separation and catch share programs. In 2009, four Gulf state governors wrote a letter stating their opposition to catch shares and Congress has passed amendments cutting funding for such programs.
â€œWe hope the members of the Gulf Council are listening because the message from Governors, Congressmen, and the recreational angling community is quite clear â€“ privatizing public wildlife resources through sector separation and catch shares is the wrong direction,â€ said Chester Brewer, chairman of Coastal Conservation Associations National Government Relations Committee. â€œIf the Council and NOAA Fisheries continue to ignore this message, then that should be interpreted as yet more evidence that the federal management system is broken and Congress should engage to either rein in a federal agency that has lost its way or explore a completely new paradigm for managing the nations marine resources.â€
To see the full letter from the Congressional Sportsmens Caucus, click HERE.