The Biscayne National Park (BNP) contains some of the finest saltwater recreational fishing areas in Florida. The Parks location in highly urbanized southeast Florida makes it an extremely valuable component of Floridas 18 billion dollar saltwater recreational fishery. High recreational usage is one of the major values and benefits of the Park. Such recreational use can create management challenges and opportunities. In recent years, some groups and managers have been promoting â€œno entryâ€ and â€œno fishing zonesâ€ as a means to protect natural resources. Such measures have been pushed even before other more reasonable and proven measures have been tried. The real challenge to Park managers is to not shut down access but rather, instead, to work cooperatively with recreational fishers to develop plans which provide access and resource protection.
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.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has adopted new regulations to protect permit. The primary action was to extend Florida state regulations into offshore federal waters and further limit the take of the large spawning size fish.
â€œIt was extremely important to adopt the permit rule modifications to get controls in federal waters where none existed.â€ said Ted Forsgren, CCA Florida Executive Director. â€œThe regulations adopted by the Commissioners are a great set of amendments and new regulations which will protect this outstanding fishery for many yearsâ€.
FWC Commissioners Ken Wright and Rodney Barreto led the charge for changes at the Commission level. Commissioner Wright noted that the permit rule along with the recent bonefish rule plus our great tarpon fishery puts Florida in the international spotlight for anglers to pursue and catch the coveted â€œflats grand slamâ€, a tarpon, bonefish, and permit all caught in the same day. â€œAnglers travel all over the world for such an opportunity and now we are going to be in a position to outcompete Belize and other countries for those angler dollarsâ€ said Wright. â€œIt is a good thing for Floridas economy and our status as the â€œFishing Capital of the Worldâ€.
Anglers applaud decision to terminate catch share development in Amendment 21
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GA â€“ Recreational anglers are applauding the South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils decision today to â€œterminate all work relative to catch share development in Amendment 21,â€ the Comprehensive Catch Share Amendment. In a motion by Council member George Geiger of Florida, the Snapper Grouper Committee yesterday voted to remove catch shares from Amendment 21, setting up todays action by the full Council. The decision is good news for recreational anglers who have been fighting the concept of catch shares as a one-size-fits-all solution to fishery management problems.
â€œThere are so many other things for federal managers to be focusing on other than a controversial management scheme like catch shares,â€ said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCAs National Government Relations Committee. â€œThis action by the South Atlantic Council signals that NOAA should stop the rush to embrace catch shares and reconsider its priorities.â€
As part of its ongoing effort to encourage the federal fisheries management system to overhaul the way it views the nations marine resources, Coastal Conservation Association is urging the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to break with the failed policies of the past and chart new management plans for a series of important recreational fisheries.
In recent months, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission have all opted to explore reallocation of fisheries using forward-looking criteria rather than outdated catch histories. The South Atlantic Council is noticeably absent from that list.