Monday, February 14, 2011

Senate Bill 744: Recreational Fishing Licenses

Earlier this month, there was a Florida Senate Bill filed by State Senator Joe Negron stating "Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, a recreational freshwater fishing or recreational saltwater fishing license or permit is not required of any resident or nonresident to fish in this state" and "shall take effect July 1, 2011". Is this a good bill?

State figures show that there are over 1 million saltwater fishing licenses sold annually producing $29 million in revenue. Freshwater fishing licenses generate nearly $10 million in revenue with over 525,000 licenses sold annually. A state law guarantees that all the money from the sale of fishing licenses goes to the FWC to help fulfill its mission of "Managing fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of the people". Additionally, in 1950, congressmen Dingell and Johnshon, at the request of anglers and the industry, created the original Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) program where fishing tackle was assessed an excise fee and the monies returned to the states for fish restoration projects. The "Wallop-Breaux" amendment in 1984 expanded the act by adding import duties on sport fishing equipment, pleasure boats and yachts as well as tax revenue from motorboat fuel sales. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reimburses states using these funds at the rate of $3 for every $4 spent on qualifying projects. The result is one of the most successful "user-pays, user-benefits" programs in the world, with taxes from sale of outdoor recreation supplies directly enhancing and promoting the resource.

The amount of money Florida receives from SFR is based on the size of the state and the number of paid licensed anglers; not license and permits, but the people who hold them. Since FL does not charge license fees for youths under 16, adults over 65, and others, FL recovers a somewhat smaller proportion of these funds than other states do. This is becoming an increasing problem as other states adjust their license structures to maximize the number of paid license holders they certify for federal aid and thus recover a greater proportion of the excise taxes on tackle and motor boat fuel taxes paid by anglers. Each certified holder generates approximately $7 more for sport fish restoration providing $13 million for Florida in 2008. Of those monies 15% went to boating access; building and repairing ramps and courtesy docks. The remainder went to fresh and saltwater fisheries conservation projects such as habitat restoration, fish stocking, conservation law enforcement, artificial reefs construction, and youth fishing clinics.

Consequently, FWC encourages all anglers to buy a license even if you are legally exempt because it contributes to the future of FL's fishieries resources and the health of the habitat by helping them obtain the matching $7 contribution from the federal SFR program. So what will happen to these funds from the SFR program if there is no longer a state fishing license for anyone? Obviously FL will no longer qualify for this funding and will need to look for other sources of money for boating access and fisheries conservation projects. This could potentially mean less money overall for these projects.

Another consequence of this bill potentially passing is that Florida's anglers will probably pay more to fish and the money will no longer go to Florida but to the federal government. The 2010 reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires all anglers fishing in saltwater or for anadromous species (fish that live mainly in the ocean but breed in freshwater) to obtain a federal registration that costs about $20 per person. These funds are deposited into the National Treasury, not into Florida's Marine Fisheries Conservation Trust Fund. But a provision in the act exempts states that have an adequate saltwater fishing license, which Florida currently does. Without our Florida fishing licenses, anglers in Florida will need to pay the federal license fee instead.

So what can you do? You can call Senator Joe Negron's office and tell him how you feel about the bill. His email is or call 1-888-759-0791 (district office) or 850-487-5088 (Tallahassee office). Of you could call your local senator to see how they plan on voting on this bill and explain to them your thoughts. You can find your local legislator at

Friday, February 4, 2011

King Mackerel Trip Limit to Remain at 50 Fish per Day

Information from Southeast Fishery Bulletin FB11-008:
The daily vessel trip limit will remain at 50 fish for commercial hook-and-line vessels fishing for Gulf group king mackerel in federal waters of the Florida east coast subzone: area north of a line directly east from the Miami-Dade/Monroe County, FL boundary to a line directly east from the Volusia/Flagler County, FL, boundary. Based on landings data, NOAA Fisheries Service determined that more than 75% (or 780,469 pounds) of the 1,040,625-pound quota has been harvested for this fishery segment before February 1, 2011. If 75% of the quota had not been harvested, the trip limit would have increased to 75 fish. The 50-fish daily trip limit will remain in effect until March 31, 2011, unless the subzone's quota is reached. If the 1,040,625-pound quota is harvested during February or March 2011, the subzone will be closed and the daily trip limit will be reduced to zero kind mackerel until the 2010/2011 season ends on March 31, 2011. Under the Florida Administrative Code established by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the daily trip limit for kind mackerel harvested in state waters off the east coast of Florida also will remain at 50 fish.

NOAA Fisheries Service Announces Closure Date for the South Atlantic Recreational Black Sea Bass Fishery

Information from Southeast Fishery Bulletin FB11-005:
NOAA Fisheries has determined that the 2010-2011 recreational annual catch limit (ACL) of 409,000 pounds for black sea bass has been reached. As a result, the recreational sector for black sea bass in federal waters of the South Atlantic from Cape Hatteras Light, NC to Key West, FL will be closed effective 12:01 am February 12, 2011 through 12:01am June 1, 2011. For vessels which have a valid federal charter vessel/heaboat permit for South Atlantic Snapper-grouper, the closure applies to state and federal waters.
Black sea bass are overfished (population is too low) and undergoing overfishing (rate of removals is too high). Harvest levels must be kept below the 309,000 pounds gutted weight commercial quota and 409,000 pounds gutted weight recreational allocation to prevent fish from being removed too quickly, and to rebuild the black sea bass population.
Amendment 17B to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region, which became in effect on January 31, 2011, retains these values as the respective commercial and recreational ACLs. Amendment 17B also includes black sea bass accountability measures (AMs), which are actions intended to prevent the ACL from being exceeded. If the ACL is projected to be met, the recreational fishery would be closed (which is what is occurring now). If the ACL is exceeded, the ACL for the following fishing year will be reduced by the amount of the overage. That determination will be made before the next fishing year begins.
Commercial harvest of black sea bass closed on October 7, 2010, because NOAA Fisheries Service projected landings would reach the quota by that time. However, an updated report indicated that less fish were landed than expected so the commercial sector was reopened from 12:01am December 1, 2010 until 12:01am December 15, 2010. Currently, it remains closed until June 1, 2011.
For more information visit the South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils website at or the NOAA Fisheries Service Southeast Region website at

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

SAFMC Public Hearings/ Scoping Meetings Tonight in Cocoa Beach

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) will be holding public hearing/scoping meeting tonight at the International Palms Resort in Cocoa Beach from 3-7pm. Council staff will provide informal presentations and answer questions regarding proposed management measures. Local representatives of the SAFMC will be available to take formal comment from the public. Copies of public hearing and scoping documents are available at

The public hearing items include:
  1. Comprehensive Annual Catch Limit Amendment - Establishes Annual Catch Limits and Accountability Measures for species not currently listed as undergoing overfishing as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Includes species in the snapper grouper management complex plus dolphin, wahoo, and golden crab.
  2. Snapper Grouper Regulatory Amendment 9 - Commercial trip limit options for greater amberjack, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, and gag grouper.
  3. Comprehensive Ecosystem-Based Amendment 2 - Octocoral management actions, issues addressing Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) and EFH/Habitat Areas of Particular Concern, Special Management Zones in South Carolina, and requirements for sea turtle release gear in the commercial snapper grouper fishery.
The public scoping issues include:
  1. Comprehensive Catch Shares Amendment - Options for catch share programs for species currently managed through quotas (except snowy grouper), effort and participation reduction, and endorsement actions.
  2. Snapper Grouper Amendment 22 - Explores options for the long-term management of red snapper as the stock begins to rebuild.
  3. Snapper Grouper Amendment 23 - Management measures to end overfishing and rebuild the red grouper stock as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
  4. Golden Crab Amendment 5 - Implementation of a catch share program for the commercial golden crab fishery.