3-27-09 - For immediate release: March 27, 2009
Contact: Lee Schlesinger, 850-487-0554
Spiny lobster harvest season closes April 1
The recreational and commercial harvest season for spiny lobster in Florida waters closes April 1. The regular season will reopen Aug. 6.
The special 2-day sport season for recreational harvesters of spiny lobster will occur on July 29 and 30 this year.
3-27-09 - For immediate release: March 27, 2009
Contact: Lee Schlesinger, 850-487-0554
Gulf gag grouper sport season reopens April 1
The recreational harvest of gag grouper in all Gulf of Mexico waters off Florida reopens on April 1 after a two-month closure. This closure helps reduce the harvest and rebuild the population of gag grouper in the Gulf.
During the open season, recreational anglers may keep 2 gag grouper within the 5-grouper aggregate daily limit in all Gulf waters off Florida except Monroe County state waters. There is a 2-fish limit on gag and black grouper, either individually or in combination, within the 5-grouper aggregate daily limit in all Atlantic Ocean waters off Florida and in Monroe County state waters.
The minimum size limit for gag grouper in all Gulf waters off Florida except Monroe County state waters is 22 inches total length. The minimum size limit for gag grouper in all Atlantic Ocean waters off Florida and in Monroe County state waters is 24 inches total length.
More information on grouper management is available online at MyFWC.com/RULESANDREGS/Saltwater_Regulations_Grouper.htm.
2/5/09 - FWC changes Gulf red snapper sport season
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a rule Thursday that changes the recreational harvest season for red snapper in Gulf of Mexico state waters. This action means that Florida’s Gulf red snapper recreational harvest season will match the currently established season in Gulf federal waters.
The sport harvest season for red snapper in Gulf state waters will be open from June 1 through Sept. 30. Previously, the season in Gulf state waters occurred from April 15 through Oct. 31.
“Red snapper are considered to be overfished and undergoing overfishing in the Gulf,” said FWC Commissioner Dwight Stephenson. “Shortening the fishing season in Gulf state waters will help rebuild red snapper populations and hopefully minimize the need for further fishing restrictions.”
FWC amends lobster traps rule
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on Thursday, Feb. 5, approved a rule amendment to help reduce the number of traps that can be used in the commercial spiny lobster fishery.
The rule change will end a 5-year moratorium on the reduction of lobster traps in Florida. However, the number of traps will be reduced only when a commercial lobster harvester decides to sell or transfer his FWC-issued trap certificates to someone outside his immediate family. The new rule will allow the harvester to sell or transfer all but 10 percent of those certificates.
“This will help decrease the total number of traps used in the lobster fishery and benefit both the fishery and the sensitive South Florida habitats where lobsters are harvested,” said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto.
The new rule amendment takes effect on July 1.
Blue crab closed seasons approved to aid cleanups
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a rule on Thursday, Feb. 5, that will establish six regional closed seasons to the harvest of blue crabs with traps. These closures will extend for a period of up to 10 days each to help efforts to identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps from Florida waters.
Lost and abandoned blue crab traps have been cited as a problem in the blue crab fishery because they sometimes interfere with other fishing activities and can continue to trap crabs and fish when they are not maintained. They can also be unsightly in the marine environment, damage sensitive habitats and pose navigational hazards to boaters.
It is illegal to tamper with properly licensed and maintained blue crab traps, and lost and abandoned traps cannot easily be distinguished from legal traps, so they often remain in the water indefinitely. Regional closures to blue crab trap harvest of up to 10 days will allow authorized groups to collect lost and abandoned blue crab traps that remain in the water during the closed periods.
The new rule prohibits the harvest of blue crabs with traps in all waters of the St. Johns River system from Jan. 16-25, all other coastal waters from the Georgia/Florida state line south through Volusia County from Aug. 20-29, all waters of Brevard through Palm Beach counties from Aug. 10-19, all waters of Broward through Pasco counties from July 10-19, all waters of Hernando through Wakulla counties from July 20-29, and all waters of Franklin County to the Florida/Alabama state line from Jan. 5-14.
Except for the St. Johns River system closure, all of the proposed blue crab trap harvest closures will extend from the shoreline out to 3 nautical miles and include all inland waters in the regions. An existing Sept. 20-Oct. 4 blue crab trap closed season in the Gulf of Mexico from 3 to 9 miles offshore will remain in effect.
The closures will apply only to standard blue crab traps. The harvest of blue crabs by other gear, such as dip nets and fold-up traps, will still be permitted during the closures. The closures will also apply to recreational harvesters who use standard blue crab traps unless the traps are attached to private property.
This rule takes effect on July 1.
New rules approved for harvest of aquarium species
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on Thursday, Feb. 5, approved a series of rule amendments for the marine life (aquarium species) fishery. These rules are intended to enhance the FWC’s existing marine life regulations to help maintain the health of Florida’s important coral reef ecosystem.
Several species will be added to the marine life rule, which means that commercial harvesters of these species will need a marine life endorsement to collect them, and these species also will be included in the marine life recreational bag limit. The added species include porcupine fish, spotted burrfish, black brotula, key brotula, yellow stingray, blackbar soldierfish, red mithrax crab, emerald crab, red ridged clinging crab, the star snail lithopoma tectum, all hermit crabs (except land hermits), and nassarius snails.
The new rules will allow recreational harvesters to take no more than five of any one marine life species daily within the 20-organism aggregate bag limit and possess no more than a two-day bag limit (up to 40 marine life organisms).
In addition, the new rules will raise the maximum size limit for butterflyfish from 4 to 5 inches total length and establish maximum size limits of 9 inches total length for tangs and 12 inches total length for parrotfish for all marine life harvesters, change the daily commercial bag limit for butterflyfish from 75 per vessel to 50 per person or 100 per vessel (if two endorsement-holders are aboard), and establish a commercial daily vessel limit of 400 for dwarf seahorses.
The new rules also will lower the commercial daily bag limit for condylactis anemones from 400 per vessel to 200 per marine life endorsement holder on a vessel, and establish commercial daily bag limits of 400 per vessel for emerald crabs, 1 gallon per person and 2 gallons per vessel for lithopoma tectum (added to the current star snail bag limit), and 1 quart per person and 2 quarts per vessel for scarlet reef hermits.
Other new rules include specifying that all marine life harvesters must take ricordea (a soft coral) and all corallimorph polyps as a single polyp only and establishing a commercial daily bag limit for all corallimorph polyps of 100 polyps per person or 200 per vessel (if two endorsement-holders are aboard). A commercial daily bag limit will also be established for zoanthid polyps of 1 gallon of polyps per person or 2 gallons per vessel (if two endorsement-holders are aboard), and the only gear allowed to be used by all marine life harvesters for collecting zoanthid and all corallimorph polyps is a flexible blade no wider than 2 inches, such as a paint scraper, putty knife or razor blade.
The new rules also will allow the harvest of ornamental sponges north of Egmont Key in the Gulf of Mexico to be taken with a 1-inch amount of substrate beyond the holdfast and a 1-inch thick piece of substrate below the holdfast of the sponge. Taking ornamental sponges with substrate will not be allowed in waters south of Egmont Key.
Finally, the new rules will allow live rock harvest from an aquaculture lease site to count towards the requalification of the marine life transferable dive endorsement, restrict quinaldine use to marine life dive and non-transferable dive endorsement holders only, and apply other technical rule changes.
The rule amendments take effect July 1.
Penalties proposed for blue crab trap program violations
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) proposed a draft rule on Thursday, Feb. 5, that would establish penalties for violating requirements of the Blue Crab Effort Management Program. The FWC developed this program to manage the use of traps in Florida’s commercial blue crab fishery.
The proposed administrative penalties are authorized by Florida statute (Section 379.366, F.S.) and would apply to violations such as untagged traps, trap molestation, illegal barter of tags and trap theft.
The proposed rule would standardize penalty assessments by creating a tiered system that allows the penalties to be assessed relative to the severity of the violation and the number of previous violations up to a statutory maximum. This rule would be consistent with existing rules establishing administrative penalties for the stone crab and spiny lobster fisheries.
A final public hearing on the proposed rule will be held during the next FWC public meeting in April.
More information regarding the draft rule is available online at MyFWC.com/commission/2009/Feb09/docs/2009_Feb_9B_DR_BlueCrabCivilPenalties_Presentation.pdf.
For immediate release: February 5, 2009
Contacts: (inland issues) Henry Cabbage, 850-488-8843;
(marine issues) Lee Schlesinger, 850-487-0554
Agenda (with links to background reports) MyFWC.com/commission/2009/Feb09/index.htm.
FWC sorts through rule proposals at Sandestin
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wrapped up a two-day session Thursday, Feb. 5, at Sandestin. During the meeting, Commissioners voted on new rules for Florida’s quota hunt system and changed some marine fishing regulations.
Beginning with the 2009-2010 hunting season, quota hunt permits will be nontransferable but allow a guest permit for archery, muzzleloading gun, general gun, wild hog, mobility-impaired and spring turkey hunts. In addition, Commissioners approved new regulations for various wildlife management areas (WMAs).
The Commission also approved new season dates and regulations for public hunting lands within the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes and Babcock Ranch Preserve.
Regarding marine fisheries, the Commission approved a rule that establishes a June 1 through Sept. 30 recreational red snapper harvest season in Gulf of Mexico state waters. This action is consistent with the current red snapper season in Gulf federal waters.
Commissioners also approved a new rule to reduce the number of traps used in the lobster fishery. The rule change will end a five-year moratorium on the reduction of lobster traps in Florida. However, the number of traps will be reduced only when a commercial lobster harvester decides to sell or transfer his FWC-issued trap certificates to someone outside his immediate family. The new rule will allow the harvester to sell or transfer all but 10 percent of those certificates. The new rule takes effect on July 1.
The FWC also approved rules to add new fish and invertebrate species to marine life (aquarium species) regulations and establish and change size and bag limits and gear specifications for several marine life species. The new rules also make other administrative and technical marine life rule changes. These rules take effect on July 1.
Another new rule approved by the Commission will help in efforts to identify and remove lost or abandoned blue crab traps from Florida waters. It will establish six regional closed seasons to the harvest of blue crabs (up to 10 days) with traps. That will enable authorized people and groups to clean up trap debris left in the water during the closed seasons. This rule takes effect on July 1.
In other marine fisheries action, Commissioners proposed a draft rule that would establish administrative penalties for blue crab management program violations and reviewed and discussed management of flounder and various federal fisheries management issues.
Commissioners also recognized Ed Moyer, who retired from the FWC in 2008, for his 35 years of service to the agency, and the Wildlife Foundation of Florida presented its Louise Ireland Humphrey Achievement Award to Carol Knox, the FWC’s Manatee Program administrator.
The next regular FWC meeting will be April 15-16 in Tallahassee.
For immediate release: December 29, 2008
New Gulf grouper, amberjack and triggerfish rules take effect Jan. 1
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission advises anglers that new rules to help manage gag and red grouper, greater amberjack and gray triggerfish in Gulf of Mexico waters take effect on Jan. 1.
The recreational daily bag limit for gag grouper is now two fish per person within the five-grouper aggregate limit in all Gulf waters, and the recreational harvest of gag grouper in all Gulf waters is prohibited from Feb. 1 through March 31.
The recreational daily bag limit for red grouper in Gulf state waters is now two fish per person within the five-grouper aggregate limit. However, the recreational red grouper limit in Gulf federal waters is still one fish per person within the aggregate limit. Florida state waters extend 9 nautical miles offshore in the Gulf, and federal waters extend beyond state waters.
The Feb. 15 - March 14 closure to the recreational harvest of red and black grouper in Gulf federal waters is still in effect. This recreational closed season does not apply in Gulf state waters.
In addition, the recreational minimum size limit for greater amberjack is now 30 inches fork length, and the commercial and recreational minimum size limit for gray triggerfish is now 14 inches fork length in all Gulf waters.
FWC approves Gulf gag and red grouper rule changes
December 4, 2008
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Thursday approved rule amendments for gag grouper in Gulf of Mexico state waters that are consistent with interim regulations in Gulf federal waters. In addition, the FWC approved a rule amendment to allow Florida recreational anglers to harvest more red grouper in Gulf state waters.
A recent stock assessment indicated that Gulf gag grouper are undergoing overfishing (excessive harvesting pressure), and harvest levels must be reduced. Interim federal regulations to address this situation will be implemented in Gulf waters beyond nine nautical miles offshore of Florida in January. Today's FWC action will make Florida gag grouper rules in state waters consistent with the interim federal regulations.
The new rules establish a two-fish-per-person recreational daily bag limit for gag grouper within the five-grouper aggregate limit in Gulf state waters, and prohibit the recreational harvest of gag grouper from Gulf state waters from Feb. 1 through March 31.
Another new FWC rule increases the recreational daily bag limit for red grouper in Gulf state waters from one fish per person to two. The FWC is taking this action now because a recent stock assessment concluded that the Gulf red grouper stock has recovered enough to allow an increase in harvest levels, and it is expected that the recreational red grouper bag limit in Gulf federal waters will be increased to two fish sometime in 2009.
"The improvement in red grouper abundance in the Gulf gives us a chance to 'give back' some fish to anglers and helps reduce the overall impacts of the new gag grouper restrictions," said Rodney Barreto, chairman of the FWC.
12/4/08 Size limits changed for Gulf amberjack and triggerfish
December 4, 2008
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved new rules Thursday to increase the minimum size limits for greater amberjack and gray triggerfish in Gulf of Mexico state waters. This action is consistent with new regulations in Gulf federal waters, which extend beyond nine nautical miles offshore of Florida.
Federal fisheries managers recently implemented a management plan for greater amberjack and gray triggerfish in Gulf federal waters. Greater amberjack in the Gulf are considered to be overfished (low stock abundance) and undergoing overfishing (excessive harvesting pressure). Gray triggerfish in the Gulf are considered to be undergoing overfishing.
The new rules increase the recreational minimum size limit for greater amberjack from 28 to 30 inches fork length and increase the commercial and recreational minimum size limit for gray triggerfish from 12 to 14 inches fork length in Gulf state waters.
These rules take effect on Jan. 1.
These rules will take effect on Jan. 1. More information on grouper management is available online at MyFWC.com/marine/grouper/index.htm.