Why did FWC establish a new Gulf gag grouper season for 2012?
Stock assessments have shown that gag grouper populations in the Gulf of Mexico are significantly below healthy levels and the species continues to undergo overfishing. In an effort to rebuild stocks, the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council established a July 1–Oct. 31 season in federal waters of the Gulf.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission met in February and subsequently adopted new management measures for gag grouper in state waters of the Gulf. These changes included a federally consistent harvest season in the Gulf, which is July 1–Oct. 31.
During the February FWC meeting, the
Commission also approved an April 1 through June 30 gag grouper season for a four county region including Taylor, Jefferson, Wakulla and Franklin counties including all waters of the Steinhatchee River, Apalachicola Bay and Indian Pass. This regional gag grouper season is for 2012 only. Because this season was established as a regional alternative to the Gulf wide season, state waters (within nine miles from shore) adjacent to the four county region will be closed for harvest during the July through October Gulf gag grouper season.
A map of the gag grouper region can be viewed at: MyFWC.com/Fishing/Saltwater/Regulations/Groupers/Gulf-grouper.
What does this mean for harvesters within the four county region during the July 1–Oct. 31 gag grouper season?
Harvesters leaving port in the four county region can still keep gag grouper in federal waters that are open for gag grouper and return through closed waters to shore. The important thing to remember is that while you are traveling through closed waters, and in possession of gag grouper caught in open waters, you will need to travel in a direct and expeditious manner.
Do not stop in closed waters to fish for other species while in possession of gag grouper because law enforcement will have no way to determine if the fish were caught legally in open waters. To avoid law enforcement issues, please plan your trip accordingly and be safe out there.
When I’m out fishing, how can I tell if I’m in open or closed waters?
The only way to accurately determine where you are fishing, without visual references, is with the use of electronic navigation equipment and charts. As a licensed recreational harvester, it is your responsibility to know where you are fishing.
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.