Illegally harvesting Florida's most important sport fish is serious business, as a woman and two men in Brevard County found out recently. They are each facing numerous misdemeanor charges for snook and red drum violations after Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Officer Kris Culver watched them catch and put the fish in their car at Sebastian Inlet during the night of Jan. 6.
Fernando Pantoja (DOB 05/02/80), of Okeechobee; Kenneth William Weber (DOB 10/09/64), of Vero Beach; and Gloria Lynn Melton (DOB 04/01/64) of Melbourne are each charged with possession of snook out of season, illegal method for harvesting snook (cast net), over-the-bag-limit of snook, possession of undersized red drum, and over-the-bag-limit of red drum. The number of illegal fish totaled 26 red drum, four snook and one black drum. Culver donated them to a local charitable organization.
Federal fisheries managers are set to close another popular recreational fishery in the South Atlantic in the latest example of how chronic lapses in science and data-collection are wreaking havoc on the recreational angling sector. Less than two months after narrowly avoiding a massive closure of all bottom fishing in the South Atlantic to recover red snapper, federal managers have announced that black sea bass are set to become off-limits from February to June due to circumstances that sounds frustratingly familiar to anglers.
â€œWhen Congress strengthened the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 2006 in an effort to end overfishing, it did not intend NOAA Fisheries to achieve that goal simply by ending all fishing,â€ said Chester Brewer, chairman of Coastal Conservation Associations National Government Relations Committee. â€œWe need to end overfishing, but we have to have better data and more timely assessments before such harsh restrictions are imposed.â€
"We met with Senator Negron to explain the benefits of the license money and the damages that would occur if it was eliminated" said Ted Forsgren, Executive Director of CCA Florida. "He told us that he did not believe that a license should be required to fish. He simply disagreed with all of our comments and concerns, but was open to further discussions."
For more than a hundred years, conservation minded sportsmen, fishers and hunters have actively supported and promoted license fees to manage public natural resources. As the original proponent of the saltwater fishing license in 1988, CCA Florida has worked to protect and improve the license for more than 20 years.
Since then, the saltwater fishing license has provided more than 250 million dollars in revenues specifically dedicated to marine research, management and law enforcement. The funding provides critical information for the management of fisheries like snook, redfish, spotted sea trout and grouper. "If you dont have basic research which establishes the levels of abundance and monitors the impacts of regulations you can not properly manage a fishery" said Forsgren.