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Marine Life and Tropical Ornamentals

Learn about commercial harvesting of marine life species.

Florida's commercial marine life fishery is the nonlethal harvest of saltwater fish, invertebrates, and plants for commercial purposes. These organisms are harvested and maintained alive and then sold alive to wholesale and retail dealers and aquarium owners. In the United States, the collection of many of these organisms is limited to Florida.

The state of Florida collects data from wholesale dealers and commercial fishers to generate statistics on the types of species and quantities landed. The state has collected commercial fisheries landings and fishing effort data since November 1984. In 1988, the Florida Marine Life Association (FMLA) petitioned the Marine Fisheries Commission to adopt standards for the collection of tropical marine life species. As a result, harvest regulations were adopted, and the collection of marine life and tropical ornamental data began in 1990. The Fisheries-Dependent Monitoring (FDM) section at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) maintains marine life landings data that date back to 1994.

Over the last 5 years Florida wholesale marine life dealers have landed an average of 34.1 million individual marine life products with an average ex-vessel value of 2.875 million dollars.

Requirements to Collect Marine Life:

Commercial marine life collectors are required to possess a Saltwater Products License (SPL) with the Restricted Species (RS) and Marine Life (ML) endorsements. A Special Activity License (SAL) is required to use the quinaldine chemical to harvest marine life species. Park permits may also be required. Recreational harvesters are required to have a saltwater fishing license and are limited to five of each species per person per day, which is included in a 20-organism per day Marine Life aggregate bag limit.  In order to maintain collected organisms in a healthy condition, recreational harvesters are limited to the use of hand held nets, barrier nets, drop nets, slurp guns, storage bags, and rods to harvest dwarf seahorses.  Additionally, all Marine Life organisms must be landed alive.

Regulation Information:
Specific commercial and recreational marine life regulations may be found in chapter 68B-42 of the Florida Administrative Code.

Only those who have a valid Aquaculture license (AQ) can harvest live rock. Prospective applicants should contact the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Aquaculture for more information.

Prohibited Species
All harvest of the following species is prohibited, unless it is pursuant to a research permit:

  • Live rock (except harvested by aquaculture)
  • Bahama or Cushion sea star (Oreaster reticulatus)
  • Longspine urchin (Diadema antillarum)
  • Queen Conch (Strombus gigas)
  • Any sea fan of the species Gorgonia flabellum or of the species Gorgonia ventalina
  • Any hard or stony coral (Order Scleractinia)
  • Any fire coral (Genus Millepora)

Please refer to Chapter 68B-42 of the Florida Administrative Code for more information.