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Management of Florida Marine Fishes in State and Federal Waters

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Many of Florida’s important fisheries occur in both state and federal waters and are managed by both the FWC and federal agencies. When anglers travel beyond state water boundaries into federal waters (beyond three nautical miles on the Atlantic and nine nautical miles in the Gulf of Mexico), they are often subject to regulations set by federal managers. This is the case for species such as snappers, groupers, amberjack, and king mackerel. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council manages fisheries in federal waters (beyond three nautical miles) off the Florida Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council manages fisheries in federal waters (beyond nine nautical miles) off the Gulf coast. These Councils develop fishery management plans and recommend regulations to the U.S. Department of Commerce based on stock assessments conducted by the SouthEast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) program, scientific data, and public comment as required by the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. NOAA Fisheries Service reviews Council recommendations and decides whether or not to approve the regulations as an agency of the Department of Commerce.

The FWC manages fisheries in state waters, but has a strong interest in how fish are managed in federal waters and how that management affects Floridians. FWC staff serves on both the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils and coordinates fisheries management with the Councils. The Councils and the FWC often enact consistent regulations in state and federal waters, but sometimes use different approaches to meet management goals.

The FWC also manages some fish species in both state and federal waters. The Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act allows states to extend their regulations for a particular fishery into adjacent federal waters when there are no federal rules for that fishery. For example, FWC rules for bonefish, blue crab traps and snook apply in federal waters off Florida. FWC rules apply in federal waters off Florida for all species marked with a symbol on the regulations chart.

Before fishing nine nautical miles beyond shore in the Gulf of Mexico or three nautical miles beyond shore in the Atlantic, be sure to check the latest federal regulations.

  • For Gulf federal regulations, contact the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council at www.gulfcouncil.org or 888-833-1844.
  • For Atlantic federal regulations, contact the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council at www.safmc.net or 866-SAFMC-10.
  • For Gulf, Atlantic, and Highly Migratory Species
    (tunas, sharks, swordfish, and billfish) federal regulations, contact NOAA Fisheries Service at sero.nmfs.noaa.gov
    or 727-824-5301.
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