News Releases

FWC wraps up 2-day meeting in Lake Mary

News Release

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 species' population.

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 July.

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; and
  • 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.

FWC Facts:
Except in an emergency, it is against the law to anchor or operate a vessel in a manner that unreasonably interferes with the navigation of other vessels.

Learn More at AskFWC