FWC wraps up 2-day meeting in Apalachicola
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Media contact: (marine fisheries issues) Lee Schlesinger, 850-487-0554;
(hunting issues) Tony Young, 850-488-7867;
(other issues) Susan Smith, 850-488-8843
- Agenda (with links to
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) wrapped up its two-day meeting Thursday in
Apalachicola, where Commissioners enhanced fishing and hunting
opportunities for the immediate and/or long-term future of these
traditional, conservation-oriented activities and discussed
important wildlife issues.
The bulk of the agenda Thursday at the Franklin
County Courthouse focused on hunting issues - a departure from the
norm of scheduling marine issues on the second day.
Marine issues dominated the agenda on Wednesday,
when Commissioners proposed a draft rule that would establish three
regional management areas for red drum (also known as redfish),
raise the daily recreational bag limit for red drum from one fish
to two in northeast and northwest Florida and create a statewide
eight-fish vessel limit for red drum. Commissioners will also
develop ways to modify the red drum off-the-water possession
In addition, the Commission proposed a draft rule
that would make bonefish a catch-and-release only fishery, allow
the temporary possession of bonefish for photographs and to
document a possible record catch, and create a tournament exemption
permit to allow temporary possession and transport of bonefish for
Final public hearings on the FWC's red drum and
bonefish rule proposals will be in April.
In other marine fisheries action, Commissioners
agreed to consider in April proposed recreational amberjack and gag
grouper rules for Gulf of Mexico state waters that would be
consistent with rules in Gulf federal waters. The proposed rules
for Gulf state waters would establish a June 1 through July 31
recreational closed harvest season for amberjack, recreational
closed harvest seasons of June 1 through Sept. 15 and Nov. 16
through Dec. 31 for gag grouper, and an open recreational harvest
season of Sept. 16 through Nov. 15 for gag grouper.
The Commission also received the latest biological
information and public testimony regarding the management of
goliath grouper and directed staff to continue to closely monitor
the recovery of Florida's goliath grouper population and explore
future management strategies as soon as possible. They also
approved rules that will allow the transfer of stone crab, spiny
lobster, marine life and ballyhoo commercial license endorsements
from May 1 through the end of February each year and considered
various federal fisheries-management issues.
Regarding waterway issues, Commissioners agreed
with staff recommendations to accept three sites for a statewide
anchoring and mooring pilot program. They are portions of Monroe
County and the cities of Sarasota and St. Petersburg. Two more,
from the east coast, will be recommended in April. Under Florida
Statutes, the Commission has until July 1 to select the remaining
Numerous representatives from Stuart said they want
to be included in the pilot program to protect their harbor.
Commissioners directed staff to work with the city to see if Stuart
can be added as a third pilot program site on the east coast.
A mooring field is a controlled area where boaters
tie their vessels to a floating buoy, which is secured to the
bottom of the waterway. Florida Statutes require the FWC, in
consultation with the Department of Environmental Protection, to
establish a pilot program regulating anchoring and mooring outside
of marked public mooring fields to protect public property and
safety and the marine environment against improperly stored,
abandoned or derelict vessels.
Commissioners on Thursday advanced an alligator
harvest rule amendment to give hunters more hours - four hours of
daylight - each day during the annual 11-week season, from Aug. 15
to Nov. 1. Only nighttime hunting is legal now. Commissioners
directed staff to advertise the rule amendment. They will vote on
the final amendment at their June meeting.
The Commission adopted final rules that affect
hunting on many of the state's wildlife management areas (WMAs).
Most of these new rules apply to specific WMAs; however, two affect
public hunting on a statewide scale.
One such statewide rule establishes youth turkey
hunts on 78 FWC-managed areas, all of which support adequate turkey
populations, and creates a youth turkey quota permit. Forty-nine of
the 78 areas will require a youth turkey quota permit, and only
those youths who will be younger than 16 years old on the last day
of the youth turkey hunt can apply for this opportunity. These are
two-day, weekend hunts the weekend prior to the opening of spring
turkey season on each particular WMA, beginning with the 2012
The other statewide rule removes the one-gun
restriction on all hog quota hunts using dogs. Currently, these
"hog-dog" quota hunts allow only one hunter (permit-holder), one
gun, one assistant and up to three dogs. An additional person also
may join the hunting party, if a guest permit is obtained in that
person's name. But starting with the 2011-12 hunting season, each
participant will be allowed to hunt with a gun.
Also on Thursday, the FWC finalized changes in
hunting dates for the 2011-12 season on lands it manages. The rules
for these public lands become effective on July 1.
These adjustments align the seasons on wildlife
management areas and wildlife and environmental areas more closely
with the newly adopted zonal season dates that took effect on
private lands last year and with the breeding season and hunter
Also Thursday, staff reported to Commissioners on
implementation of the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network.
Since December, FWC leadership and staff have been busy
establishing more sites and developing plans and budgets, said
FYCCN steering committee chairman Tom Champeau. He is director of
the FWC's Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.
"The FWC wants the youth conservation centers
network to be a national leader of youth recruitment into
conservation," Champeau said. "That's what these sites around the
state will accomplish, by introducing youths to our natural
resources and educating them about conservation."
Both meeting days begin with recognitions of people
whose outstanding work has furthered the protection of wildlife. On
Wednesday, Commissioners honored Apalachicola photographer and
author John Spohrer Jr. Today, they paid tribute to two of their
own: Tim Breault, director of the FWC's Division of Habitat and
Species Conservation and recipient of the Louise Ireland Humphrey
Achievement Award for conservation; and Lt. Anthony "Tony" Wright,
recipient of the Lifesaving with Valor Award for rescuing a woman
from a burning car north of Jacksonville.
The next Commission meeting is April 6 and 7 at the
Florida Public Safety Institute northwest of Tallahassee.