FWC wraps up 2-day meeting in Lake Mary
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Media contact: (inland issues) Gabriella B. Ferraro, 772-215-9459; (marine issues) Lee Schlesinger, 850-487-0554
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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) tackled numerous important issues during its
meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Lake Mary, near Orlando.
On Wednesday, June 23, the meeting opened with the
Commission recognizing Palm Coast wildlife artist Art LaMay. The
Commission then considered several draft rules, including fox and
coyote enclosures and their operation in Florida. The Commission
approved a draft rule that would prohibit the chasing of foxes and
coyotes in an enclosure. Staff was directed to bring back a final
rule for consideration to the September meeting in Weston.
The Commission also approved draft rule changes
that would restrict the method of take during the spring turkey
season on wildlife management areas. In addition, the Commission
approved a draft rule that would allow the use of crossbows during
archery season on private lands.
Final rules on airport safety and wildlife were
approved. The rules allow the taking of wildlife on airports when
necessary for the safety of people and aircraft at airports.
Commissioners approved proposed revisions to gopher
tortoise permitting guidelines. The revisions will help make the
permitting process more efficient.
On Thursday, June 24, the meeting opened with
special recognitions for FWC staff. The Florida Guides Association
recognized tarpon biologist Kathy Guindon and law enforcement
Officer William Holcomb for their outstanding efforts in fish and
wildlife conservation. Varley Grantham of the Triple S Cattle Co.
in Orange County was honored as the recipient of the Youth Hunting
Program of Florida Landowner of the Year Award, and Roger Mitchell
from Polk County received the 2009 Hunter Safety Volunteer
Instructor of the Year Award.
Following the awards presentation, the Commission
approved revisions to the Miami Blue Butterfly Management Plan that
take into account new information and research about the endangered
In marine fisheries actions, the Commission
approved rule amendments for weakfish, also known as gray seatrout
or yellow-mouth trout that will apply the FWC's weakfish management
rules only in designated state waters of Nassau County in Northeast
Florida, while eliminating the weakfish size limit, recreational
bag limit and commercial trip limit in all other areas of
Florida. In the designated waters only, the current daily
recreational bag limit for all weakfish-like fish (including
weakfish, sand seatrout and their hybrids) will be reduced from
four fish to one fish, and a commercial weakfish harvest limit of
100 pounds per vessel per day or trip (whichever is longer) will
apply. These rule amendments are expected to take effect in
Commissioners also approved federal consistency
rule amendments for swordfish, which will make the FWC's rules for
this species in state waters the same as regulations for swordfish
in adjacent federal waters. The rule amendments:
- increase the limit for recreational vessels from three
swordfish to four per vessel;
- create a special charter boat vessel limit of six swordfish and
a special headboat vessel limit of 15 swordfish;
- retain the individual daily bag limit of one swordfish per
person except for the captain and crew of for-hire vessels;
- remove the 33-pound minimum swordfish weight requirement.
These rule amendments are expected to take effect
in early August.
In other marine fisheries action, the Commission
reviewed and discussed several federal fishery management
issues. Commissioners agreed to extend the recreational Gulf
of Mexico red snapper season if federal waters reopen to such
harvest later this year. They also expressed their opposition
to proposals to reopen the red drum fishery in Gulf federal waters
at this time and their desire that a pending closure to the harvest
of snappers and groupers in a large portion of Atlantic federal
waters off Florida be delayed until an updated assessment of red
snapper stocks is completed.
In other business, a new rule was approved that
allows the Commission to review and approve local boating
ordinances before they take effect. In addition, a rule amendment
was approved that incorporates statutory changes in the approval
process for certain waterway markers.
Burmese pythons and several other reptiles and
lizards came under discussion as the Commission approved final
rules to change the classification of these nonnative species from
reptiles of concern to conditional species. The new rules allow
anyone currently in possession of and properly licensed for a
Burmese python or other reptile of concern, to keep the pet for the
duration of its life. However, the new rules prevent possession of
Burmese pythons, reticulated pythons, African rock pythons
(northern and southern), amethystine python group, green anacondas
and Nile monitor lizards, except for commercial purposes. The new
rules also provide 24/7 amnesty for currently unlicensed owners of
reptiles of concern or conditional species to turn over their pets
to a licensed facility without penalty.
The meeting ended with an update from the Division
of Freshwater Fisheries Management on development of the Black Bass
Management Plan for Florida.