Most will agree that 2013 has been interesting for marine fisheries management in Florida waters. We’ve lengthened both the recreational gag grouper and recreational red snapper seasons in Gulf of Mexico state waters in an effort to respond to Floridians’ and visitors needs while rebuilding these important fisheries. Weв’ve made it easier for you to help control the nonnative lionfish population that is invading our waters. We’ve heard your concerns about tarpon and how it is fished and we are looking into the issue and working to potentially further protect this important recreational species. And, after being negatively impacted by a 2010 cold spell, we are reopening recreational Gulf snook harvest, which has rebounded thanks to our proactive protection measures.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is listening; and, based on your input and the best available science, we are making informed decisions to provide more fishing opportunities for our resident and visiting anglers while moving forward with management plans for sustainable fisheries.
But good communications about management is more than a one-way conversation. When we make rules that benefit a fishery and those who use it, we also want to make sure our anglers can understand the intent of the rule and what is expected of them.
That’s where rule cleanup comes into play. Rule cleanup is an effort to make our marine fisheries regulations easier to read, understand and enforce.
This project will include reorganizing rule chapters so many definitions do not vary from one species to the next. It will also include reorganizing the chapters so that rules such as bag limits and seasons can be found within the same place in each chapter. Many of these changes will not affect how rules are currently enforced but some will.
Phase one of this project was approved by the Commission in June.
This phase included the reorganization and standardization of 20 species chapters and the relocation of regulations for swordfish, wahoo and sheepshead, currently housed within other rule chapters, to new rule chapters of their own. It also included the creation of a ‘General’ chapter, a place for definitions and regulations that apply to all marine fisheries.
Several definitions and rules that were found in existing individual chapters were moved to the ‘General’ chapter and applied to all saltwater fishing, which will mean a change in how many of these definitions and rules are enforced.
One example of this is a rule specifying vessel operators are responsible for any fishery violations that occur aboard a vessel. This rule was found in the red drum, king mackerel and reef fish chapters. Once it was moved to the “General” chapter, it was applied to all species, and therefore changed how the rule was being enforced.
Keep an eye out for future phases of the cleanup, which will include standardizing the remaining chapters; conducting a review of the FWC’s current local laws, which are specific to counties or regions, to determine which ones are still needed; and conducting a comprehensive review of Florida Statutes to determine which ones need to be transferred to FWC rule or recommended for repeal.
And while you are at it, keep letting us know your marine fisheries management concerns for the state of Florida. You can do this by emailing us at Marine@MyFWC.com, call us at 850-487-0554, or by joining us on one of our many social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and many more. You can also visit MyFWC.com. While there, be sure to click on the red envelope, which will take you to our new digital communications management system. Choose what kinds of FWC information you’d like to receive via email or text, from season openings and closures to changes in regulations.
Without your help, we wouldn’t be the “Fishing Capital of the World.”
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.