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  • 11/01/2017 11:26 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    What Does the Smalltooth Sawfish Critical Habitat Designation Mean?
    by Tonya Wiley, Havenworth Coastal Conservation 

    Following a listing as “Endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the US population of smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) in 2003, NOAA Fisheries (NMFS) designated critical habitat for the species in 2009.  But what exactly does that mean and what does that do?

    The primary reason for the decline of the smalltooth sawfish population in the United States was mortality following capture in various commercial and recreational fisheries.  The secondary reason for the decline was habitat loss largely associated with coastal development and degradation.  So the preservation of habitat is an important consideration for conserving the species.

    Photo Credit: Juan Valadez, Two juvenile smalltooth sawfish swim in very shallow water near a river mouth in Everglades National Park.

    For the purpose of the ESA, critical habitat is defined as the specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing, that contain physical or biological features (1) essential to conservation, and (2) which may require special management considerations or protection.  The definition also includes a provision for specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing if the agency determines that the area itself is essential for conservation.

    A critical habitat designation protects certain features, particular attributes, of an area that are necessary to ensure the species does not go extinct and can recover to the point that protections of the ESA are no longer necessary.  For smalltooth sawfish the features determined to be essential to the conservation of the species are red mangroves and shallow, euryhaline habitats characterized by water depths between the Mean High Water line and 3 feet measured at Mean Lower Low Water.  Euryhaline means the area can have a wide range of salt content, or salinity, due to tidal fluctuations and freshwater input as occurs in estuaries, bays, and lower reaches of rivers.  These features were determined to be essential because they provide nursery habitat for small, young sawfish providing both shelter from predators and an abundant source of prey.

    Photo credit: Tonya Wiley, Havenworth Coastal Conservation: A researcher prepares to release a juvenile smalltooth sawfish captured in shallow water along a mangrove shoreline in Florida Bay.  Research conducted under ESA permit #1352.   

    Two specific areas (units) located along the southwest coast of peninsular Florida were included in the critical habitat designation for smalltooth sawfish: the northern Charlotte Harbor Estuary Unit and the southern Ten Thousand Islands/Everglades Unit.     

    Photo credit: NMFS Office of Protected Resources: The two units of designated smalltooth sawfish critical habitat.

    So now that we’ve described why sawfish critical habitat was designated and defined both the areas and features of critical habitat, let’s look at how this affects coastal residents.  How is the designation applied and what does it mean for coastal development or recreational activities?  And how does the designation conserve the species?

    The designation of critical habitat provides a significant regulatory protection—the requirement that Federal agencies ensure, in consultation with NOAA Fisheries under section 7of the ESA, that their actions are not likely to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat.  The Federal Government, through its role in water management, flood control, regulation of resource extraction and other industries, Federal land management, and the funding, authorization, and implementation of a myriad other activities, may propose actions that are likely to affect critical habitat.  The designation ensures that the Federal Government considers the effects of its actions on critical habitat and avoids or modifies those actions that are likely to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat.   

    Critical habitat can contribute to the conservation of endangered species in several ways.  Designation under the ESA triggers a federal agency’s obligation to use their authorities to further the purposes of the Act which includes proactive conservation efforts.  Designation also helps focus the conservation efforts of other partners, such as State and local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals.  

    Photo credit: Dana M. Bethea, NOAA Fisheries: A neonate (newborn) smalltooth sawfish was captured and released on a muddy bank along a mangrove shoreline in Everglades National Park.  Research conducted under ESA permit #1352.

    The critical habitat designation for smalltooth sawfish does not necessarily prevent a homeowner from building a dock or repairing a seawall, result in new slow motor zones, close an area to fishing, or limit access to areas.  What the designation does do is add levels of review to ensure that any project which could alter those essential features is carefully considered before federal permits are authorized or funds are allocated.  In the case of smalltooth sawfish, critical habitat was designated in 2009 and has not resulted in any closed areas or lost recreational opportunities.  But it has led to the protection of shallow, mangrove-lined habitats which are important to the recovery of the smalltooth sawfish population.

    For more information about the designation of critical habitat for smalltooth sawfish visit:

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19425120.2012.676606

  • 10/12/2017 6:04 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)
    Meet Your Buddies at the Reel Animals Boat Show & Fishing Expo in Tampa


    The new Reel Animals Boat Show & Fishing Expo--known as the Frank Sargeant Outdoors Expo in a previous life--is on course for the Florida State Fairgrounds east of Tampa Nov. 17-19, and all FGA members are welcome to come out and enjoy the fun.

    The show, now skippered by Captain Mike Anderson of Reel Animals Television and radio shows with Sargeant as advisor, follows the same format as the original--for more than two decades Florida's largest fishing show--with continuous educational angling seminars from top pros on multiple stages and lots of family-friendly activities along with all the latest and greatest in fishing boats and angling gear. Plus, dozens of well-known expert anglers and guides are on hand, happy to give fishing tips to those who want them.

    For those of you who have print, radio or social media outlets, if you can find the space to give us a boost, it will be appreciated--and of course we'll be happy to return the favor if you need it down the trail.

    Show hours are 10 to 6 on Friday and Saturday, 10 to 5 on Sunday. There are plenty of on-site food vendors, and if you'd like a draft Bud as happy hour approaches, that's available, too. It's one big party for guides, anglers and their families, and we'd love to see you there. See details at www.ReelAnimalsBoatShow.com.

    Contact show manager Jim Scilligo for details: jim.scilligo@outsourcemediagroup.com or call 727-515-5652.

    We'll look forward to seeing you in Tampa.

  • 09/30/2017 5:50 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    First-ever sawfish birth filmed in the wild
    by Tonya Wiley, Haven Worth Consulting

    (Reprinted with permission from Florida State University Coastal & Marine Laboratory https://marinelab.fsu.edu/news-around-the-lab/dr-grubbs-documents-pregnant-sawfish-giving-birth-in-the-wild/)

    Sawfish are creatures of myth and legend, enormous shark-like rays with a huge rostrum bearing a row of formidable teeth protruding from each side. There are five species of sawfish in the world and all are considered Endangered or Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Dr. Dean Grubbs (Associate Director of Research, Florida State University Coastal & Marine Laboratory) and his colleagues have been studying the critically endangered smalltooth sawfish in Florida and the Bahamas since 2010, conducting research to aid sawfish conservation efforts. Much of their work has been directed towards using surveys, satellite tagging, and tracking to determine where adult sawfish mate, where the females give birth, where important nurseries are, and to determine where sawfish are most likely to be vulnerable to captures as bycatch in different fisheries. During a recent expedition funded by the Save Our Seas Foundation to the remote island of Andros his team made a discovery that will have major implications for recovery of this charismatic species. To set the stage, in 2003, smalltooth sawfish became the first native marine fish species listed as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Mangrove lined estuaries from Charlotte Harbor, Florida to Florida Bay in Everglades National Park have been designated as Critical Habitat for the species because these are the only areas where females were known to give birth and are thus critical to recovery of the species. Though sawfish were known to occur in the Bahamas, it was unknown whether these sawfish were born in the Bahamas or perhaps were part of the Florida population.

    Close-up of sawfish pup's rostral blade peeking out. At the embryonic stage, the rostrum is soft and flexible with teeth that are enclosed by a sheath, to protect the mother during birth--documented for the first time.

    On December 7, 2016 Dr. Grubbs’ team, including Dr. Andrea Kroetz (NOAA) and FSUCML graduate research assistants, Bianca Prohaska and Bryan Keller, captured a female sawfish on the west side of Andros, Bahamas that was just over 14-feet in length. During the process of tagging the large sawfish to monitor her movements, the team noticed there were the rostra of two baby sawfish protruding from her vent; she was giving birth. The research team, with the assistance of Field School staff Jake Jerome and Nick Perni, assisted the mother sawfish in the birth of five pups (i.e. baby sawfish) before releasing her to birth the rest on her own (it is believed sawfish give birth to 10-12 pups). This is the first time a live sawfish birth has been documented in the wild. The rostrum of a newborn sawfish emerges from the mother covered in a thick sheath of tissue covering the needle sharp teeth, thus protecting the mother. Dr. Grubbs’ team took genetic samples on both the mother and the five pups, implanted an acoustic transmitter in the mother and attached a satellite tag to her dorsal fin for tracking her movements, and inserted P.I.T. tags on the pups (a process similar to micro-chipping pets and lasts their lifespan). Afterward, the mother and the five pups were set free in the wild.

    Dr. Grubbs assists sawfish give birth to two pups--documented for the first time.

    Not much is known about sawfish reproduction, and while the birth was typical of many sharks and rays, this confirmed “pupping” of sawfish in Andros, Bahamas. Dr. Dean Grubbs has been studying sharks and rays for more than 25 years and describes the recent experience as “the biggest day of my research career.” This indicates there are now two known pupping and nursery areas (southwest Florida and west Andros), increasing the potential for recovery of this endangered species. Importantly, just as much of the critical sawfish habitat in Florida is protected in wildlife refuges and national parks, the area of Andros that the team has shown to be important habitat for adult and juvenile sawfish is within the recently formed West Side National Park. Protecting such areas is critical to recovery of the species.


    Dr. Dean Grubbs holds sawfish pup right after its birth.

    Sponsored by a Keystone Grant from the Save Our Seas Foundation and supported by The Field School and the Flamingo Cay Rod and Gun Club, the purpose of the research is to discover if there is any evidence of exchange between the sawfish population in the U.S. and Bahamas. Currently, sawfish populations are believed to be regionally resident, meaning they do not migrate far from their original habitat.

    To see footage of the expedition and live sawfish birth, check out a video produced by the Field School at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gt-sE14dYXs

    For more information about endangered sawfish, visit:

    http://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/pr/species/fish/smalltooth-sawfish.html

    Tonya@HavenWorthConsulting.com
    941-201-2685
    www.HavenWorthConsulting.com

  • 07/30/2017 2:23 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Capt. Pat Kelly recently presented the 2017 Phil Chapman Conservation Award to Mr. Gil McRae. The occasion was a recent meeting of the FWC in Orlando. 

    Kelly recognized McRae for his passionate commitment to the conservation of Florida’s marine fisheries.

    “I know I speak for many when I say it has been a privilege to have Gil at the top tier of FWC’s leadership. Gil’s dedication to his profession, his work ethic and his stellar career with FWRI make him an example to be followed, and personifies the essence of the Capt. Phil Chapman Award,” said Capt. Pat Kelly, Past President, Florida Guides Association.

    For 15 years McRae has lead FWRI, which provides the scientific foundation for the management of Florida’s fish and wildlife resources. He oversees more than 30 FWRI offices across the state, which encompass programs such as the impacts of red tides, freshwater flows and levels, the research that guides the conservation and management actions for many of Florida’s important and unique species, as well as data collection for all of Florida’s saltwater commercial and recreational fisheries.

    “We truly appreciate Gil’s expertise and leadership. Our scientists and researchers are the guiding force behind what we do,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski.

    McRae received a Bachelor of Science degree in aquatic ecology from the University of Michigan and a Master of Science degree in fisheries science with a minor in statistics from the University of Minnesota. He has worked for the FWC since 1995 and has been the director of FWRI since 2002.

    FGA is extremely proud to present Gil McRae with the Phil Chapman Conservation Award. 


  • 07/30/2017 1:56 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Capt. Pat Kelly was on hand at the recent FWC meeting in Orlando to present awards to two deserving FWC officers. They were each chosen through a process of nomination. Officer Michael Bibeau has been an FWC officer for seven years. Officer Peter “Sean” Gaudion has been with FWC since 2013. The FGA Trained-Eyes Coast Watcher Officer of the Year Award is given for outstanding service to the state of Florida and its fishery.

    Officer Michael Bibeau

    Officer Michael Bibeau is married to Kara Bibeau and they live happily in Pinellas County. Mike was born and raised in Pinellas and attended USF in Tampa before being accepted to the academy. He started his career with the FWC in Collier County and we were lucky enough as a region to have him transfer back roughly three years ago. He enjoys the outdoors and loves to golf, fish and spend time with his wife on the beach.

    Like all Pinellas County officer’s, Mike does his fair share of outreach events throughout the year. He is a true ambassador for the FWC and represents all law enforcement officers in a positive light. His attitude and professionalism is why he has been a Field Training Officer six times and he takes that responsibility very seriously.

    Mike has a true knack for finding, and catching, those who break our resource laws. Florida’s resource protection is his passion, and time after time you’ll see him waiting and watching and then catching these violators. His patience, dedication, and knowledge make him such an asset to the agency that there is rarely a time you won’t see his name in the weekly report. Mike continues his excellence in resource protection by sharing his knowledge with other officers on the ins and outs of making quality resource cases.

    In 2016 Mike made 54 misdemeanor arrests, 6 warrant arrests, 2 felony arrests. He also wrote 37 uniform boating citations and 215 written warnings. He documented 400 hours of water patrol. He participated in multiple search and rescues and was nominated for a life-saving award.

    FGA is very proud to name Mike as co-recipient of this prestigious award.

    Officer Peter “Sean” Gaudion

    Officer Peter “Sean” Gaudion has been assigned to Pinellas County for the entire length of his service. Sean is a native Floridian and has lived in the Tampa Bay area for most of his life, after moving from Broward County at a young age. Sean is an avid fisherman and outdoorsman with a true passion for protecting Florida’s resources.

    Sean has always had a competitive nature that became evident when he received a scholarship to play football at UCF in Orlando. He participated in that program from 1999-2003. This competiveness and drive to succeed is also displayed in his daily work routine. Sean truly cares about making a positive impact on the citizens and resources of Florida. Sean has a wife, Brittney and a 1 year old daughter, Hazel. Sean is passionate about his job but his family is his true passion in his life.

    Sean is a team player that rarely takes full credit for his accomplishments. He networks with other officers and community members to organize efforts to stop major violations. He has organized multiple details targeting misdemeanor and felony resource violations. Sean submitted an operational detail report to target illegal net fishing activity that resulted in 27 misdemeanor arrests, 9 felony arrests and 12 warnings. He also submitted a detail, still on-going, to target a wide range of crab trap violations that has resulted in 4 misdemeanor and 3 felony arrests.

    Sean always comes to work with a positive attitude which inspires and motivates others. He sets the example for new officers and exemplifies the fact that hard work is rewarded. Sean uses discretion when dealing with the public. He educates violators with warnings when possible and charges individuals when necessary.

    In 2016, Sean made 47 misdemeanor and 9 felony resource-related arrests. Many of Sean’s cases involved working late nights into early mornings. He worked long shifts in harsh conditions that many officers were not willing to work. He accomplished this success while responding to SAR missions, multiple calls for service and being a member of the Southwest Special Operations Group (SOG). His SOG responsibilities included monthly training and responding to two hurricanes for multiple days at a time.

    FGA is proud to name Sean as co-recipient of the 2017 FGA “Trained-Eyes Coast Watcher” Officer of the year award.


  • 07/30/2017 10:31 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Sawfish Handling and Release Guidelines 
    by Tonya Wiley, Haven Worth Consulting

    Smalltooth sawfish are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, which makes it illegal to target, harm, harass, or handle them in any way.  While it is technically illegal to catch a sawfish (except with a research permit or in a fishery where incidental take has been authorized) captures do occur while fishing for other species.  Any sawfish caught while fishing must be released as quickly as possible.


    The guidelines below were developed to aid anglers in quickly and safely releasing incidentally caught sawfish.  These guidelines take into account the safety of both the endangered sawfish and the angler.  Sawfish are large, powerful animals that can cause serious injury, so use caution if you do catch one.
    The number one rule to remember when handling and releasing a sawfish is to leave it in the water at all times.  Do not lift it out of the water onto your boat or a pier, and do not drag it on shore. 

    General Release Guidelines:

    • ·        Leave the sawfish in the water
    • ·        Do not remove the saw (rostrum) or injure the animal in any way
    • ·        Remove as much fishing gear as safely possible
    • ·        Use extreme caution when handling and releasing sawfish as the saw can thrash violently from side to side
    • ·        Never use a gaff or drag the sawfish on a boat or on shore

    If hooked:

    • ·        Leave the sawfish, especially the gills, in the water
    • ·        If it can be done safely, untangle any line wrapped around the saw
    • ·        Cut the line as close to the hook as possible
    • ·        If hooked internally do NOT attempt to remove the hook, remove as much line as possible and cut the line close to the hook

    If tangled in a cast net:

    • ·        Leave the sawfish, especially the gills, in the water
    • ·        Untangle and cut the net removing as much of it as possible from the animal
    • ·        Release the sawfish quickly

    Sawfish are extremely susceptible to entanglement in recreational fishing lines and commercial nets.  Mishandling and the purposeful injury and killing of captured sawfish is both illegal and detrimental to the recovery of the population.  Never use a gaff on a sawfish you have caught and never remove the rostrum.  Rachel Scharer, a Sawfish Biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Charlotte Harbor Field Laboratory said “Lately we have been getting numerous public reports of an encounter with a sawfish missing its rostrum, and we have seen several sawfish without a rostrum during our research.”  Sawfish use their rostrum for detecting and catching food so in addition to being illegal, removal of the rostrum likely severely limits the animal’s chance to find enough food to survive.
    If you catch or see a sawfish take a quick photograph of the sawfish, estimate its size, note your location, and share the details with scientists.  The details of your sightings or catches of sawfish help to monitor the population and track the recovery progress.  You can share your information by calling 844-4-SAWFISH (844-472-9347) or emailing sawfish@myfwc.com.    

    Some fishermen have expressed concern that reporting encounters will result in the closure of their favorite fishing locations.  However, the smalltooth sawfish is already listed as an endangered species and critical habitat has been designated and neither of these actions has resulted in any closed fishing areas for recreational or commercial anglers.  Your encounter reports will be used to track recovery of the population and steer research efforts, which will ultimately benefit the species and the areas in which you fish.  Adam Brame, the Sawfish Recovery Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries, said “We are confident that NOAA and recreational anglers can work together to recover smalltooth sawfish so future generations can experience the thrill of encountering such a unique animal.”

    For more information about sawfish visit:

    http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/fish/sawfish/ or http://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/pr/species/fish/smalltooth-sawfish.html

    All photographs were provided by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Charlotte Harbor Field Laboratory.  

  • 07/02/2017 11:44 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Celebrate the Fourth of July with bay scallops. State waters from the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County through the Pasco/Hernando county line will be open for scalloping starting July 1. A span of waters in the middle from the Fenholloway River in Taylor County to the Suwannee River in Dixie County opened earlier this month on June 16 and will close on Sept. 10. (See map.)                              

    These new season dates are for 2017 only and are an opportunity to explore regionally-specific bay scallop seasons. Harvesting bay scallops is a fun outdoor activity that the whole family can participate in. It also brings an important economic boost to coastal areas in the open region.  

    The scallop season in St. Joseph Bay in Gulf County will be July 25 through Sept. 10 and includes all waters in St. Joseph Bay and those west of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County, through the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County.  

    All state waters from the Pasco-Hernando county line to the Suwannee River Alligator Pass Daybeacon 4 in Levy County, and from north and west of Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County will be open July 1 through Sept. 24.  

    Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff worked with local community leaders on selecting these regional 2017 season dates. 

    At the December 2017 Commission meeting, staff will review public feedback on these changes and make a recommendation for future management. Staff will host public workshops to gather feedback after the season closes. To submit your feedback now on bay scallop regulations, visit MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments.  

    Bag and vessel limits throughout the entire bay scallop harvest zone are 2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person, with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel.  

    Scallops may be collected by hand or with a landing or dip net.  

    Scallops must be landed within the area that is open to harvest.  

    There is no commercial harvest allowed for bay scallops in Florida.  

    Be safe when diving for scallops. Stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or buoy when scalloping in open water and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or buoy if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. Boat operators traveling within 300 feet of a divers-down flag or buoy in open water or 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel must slow to idle speed.  

    Done for the day? Help FWC’s scallop researchers by completing an online survey at svy.mk/bayscallopsHarvesters can indicate where they harvest scallops, how many they collect and how long it takes to harvest them. Participants can email BayScallops@MyFWC.com to ask questions or send additional information.  

    Learn more about long-term trends in the open and closed scalloping areas by visiting MyFWC.com/Research and clicking on “Saltwater,” “Molluscs,” “Bay Scallops” and “Bay Scallop Season and Abundance Survey.”  

    For more information on the season date changes for 2017, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and select “Commission Meetings,” then click on “2016” and “Agenda” under the November meeting.  

    For information on bay scallop regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops.”

  • 05/02/2017 7:24 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is launching new programs to encourage people to help remove nonnative Burmese pythons from the Everglades ecosystem and surrounding area. Two new programs and a new Executive Order will provide people with incentives and expanded opportunities to remove these invasive constrictors.

    The Python Pickup Program is a new program designed to encourage the public to remove and report wild Burmese pythons by rewarding participants with valuable prizes. Starting now, anyone can participate in this innovative new program. People who remove pythons simply need to submit photographic evidence of the snake as well as the location from which it was removed. Anyone who submits this information will receive a free Python Pickup T-shirt for submitting their first entry. For every submission received, participants will be entered into a monthly prize drawing as well as a grand prize drawing to be held next year. Monthly prizes include snake hooks, custom engraved Yeti tumblers, Plano sportsman's trunks, GoPro cameras and Badlands backpacks. The grand prize is a Florida Lifetime Sportsman's License. The first drawing will take place in May 2017.

    As part of the Python Pickup, people can submit pythons removed from any property in Florida where they have authorization to do so from the property owner or land manager.

    A recent Executive Order allows people to remove pythons year-round from 22 public lands with no hunting license or wildlife management area permit required.

    "We know many Florida residents and visitors want to help tackle this tough conservation challenge by going after pythons in the wild and removing any they can find," said FWC Executive Director, Nick Wiley. "We want to continue to encourage and support this important citizen conservation effort. This Executive Order clarifies regulatory questions and makes it easier than ever for people to remove Burmese pythons from the wild."

    Earlier this month, the FWC also launched a Python Contractor Program which pays participants for efforts to remove Burmese pythons from the wild. The FWC selected 22 contractors already experienced with capturing wild Burmese pythons. Contractors are paid an hourly wage for their efforts to remove Burmese pythons. The FWC will also pay contractors for each snake removed. The program is similar to one recently implemented by the South Florida Water Management District.

    People interested in training on how to identify and safely remove pythons can take part in a Python Patrol Training. For more information, go to MyFWC.com/Python and click on "Python Patrol."

    The FWC will continue to work with the public and partners to explore other projects aimed at removing pythons and other nonnative species in Florida.

    People can also help with efforts to manage Burmese pythons and other nonnative species by reporting sightings to the FWC's Exotic Species Reporting Hotline at 888-Ive-Got1 (888-483-4681), online at IveGot1.org, or by downloading the free "IveGot1" smartphone app.

    For more information on Burmese pythons in Florida and the various management programs, visit MyFWC.com/Python.

  • 03/03/2017 9:26 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    FWC Meeting in Crystal River, Notes and Commentary
    By Capt. Danny R. Guarino

    As many of you know, I spent the day at the FWC commission meeting held in Crystal River on Feb 8, 2017. It was very interesting and I would like to share my notes and commentary with you.

    Quite a bit of time was spent looking at the Federal legislative outlook. I got the impression the commission is optimistic on what the new Trump administration will bring to the table. I think the FGA needs to be prepared to voice our positions in a rapidly changing environment.

    Reading between the lines I think the Commission believes Trump’s administration will bring a positive outcome to business with less concern on environmental issues. It appears the commission is in a wait and see mode as I think we should be.

    What we do know is:

    The last congress did not approve an appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017. So, for now it appears that the bills introduced last year that have not been raised or acted upon are in limbo and will have to be re-introduced.

    Included in these bills, but not limited to, are:

    Bills opposing closure of a portion Biscayne National Park S.3099,S.2807,H.R.3310, H.R.5538 .

    Congressional Bills related to red snapper H.R.3094, S.2837 H.R. 5393,

    Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and management Act H.R. 1335, S.1403,

    Congressional Bills related to Sharks S.3099, S.3095 H.R. 5584

    Recovering Americans Wildlife Act H.R. 5650

    Pittman Roberts Fund for Tomorrows Need Act H.R.4818 S.2690,

    Sportsmen act H.R. 2406 S.405

    It was stated that most if not all these bills will be reintroduced. My questions is if they will be the same bill or will they change. No one knows at this point, so review of the new bills will be prudent.

    Highlights of some of the statewide topics

    Goliath grouper

    In a discussion on goliath grouper, FWC staff reviewed the species’ management history, biology, and stock assessments. Stakeholder input on the management of goliath grouper has varied from interest in opening a harvest to continuing with the current harvest prohibition.

    FWC staff is interested in hearing more from the public on the management of this species, including the possibility of a limited harvest. That was the official statement.

    From what I can understand FWCI would like to have a limited harvest in order to gather more information. If we do in fact get a limited harvest, there will be many restrictions and most likely the harvest would be done with some type of permit that the user will pay for. The harvest would be very small. I was hearing numbers of around 100 to 200 fish per season. Only enough of a kill to satisfy the research. I would not get our hopes up of having an open season on Goliath Grouper.

    Bay Scallop

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) discussed the current status of bay scallops in St. Joseph Bay in Gulf County; approved regional changes to the bay scallop season dates in Gulf County and areas surrounding Gulf County; and discussed potential season dates in Dixie County and parts of Taylor County. These changes are for 2017 only and are an opportunity to explore regionally-specific bay scallop seasons.

    The jest of the discussions were to establish a scallop season that best fit the economic requirement of the areas that harvest scallops. I believe this is what you will see published for the seasons. A bulletin will be issued by the FWC very soon.

    Gulf County, including all waters in St. Joseph Bay and those west of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County through the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County. July 25 through Sept. 10.

    Dixie County and parts of Taylor County FWC appears to be leaning toward an earlier opening date somewhere near the middle of June. Again, this was and is going to be based on stakeholder input. A final decision will be made in a few days after more input is taken.

    For the rest of the counties that are within the Scallop zone, season will open July 1 and close Sept 24. Bag limits have not changed and bag and vessel limits throughout the entire bay scallop harvest zone will be two gallons of whole bay scallops in shell, or one pint of bay scallop meat per person with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell, or a 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel. Zones for this year have not changed but it looks as though the 2018 season may include Pasco county.

    Final thought

    Here is a comment I just have to make - There was quite a bit of public comment both for and against hand feeding sharks. It appears that some dive business want to be able to do this and some do not. I have to question the validity of a law and those that spend a lot of time, effort and money to make a law to stop anyone from hand feeding sharks. Maybe I'm missing something, but I would just let whoever wants to feed a shark feed the shark. If they do it wrong, they will stop the practice.

    Capt. Danny R. Guarino
    Vice President Florida Guides Association
    Host Tampa Fishing Outfitters Radio Show
    Mercury Pro Team
    813-956-2010
    www.fishingguidetampabay.com
    SHPOINT@AOL.COM


  • 03/02/2017 6:42 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)
    Florida Lionfish Events for 2017


    Get involved with lionfish removal by attending one of the following derbies or events.
    Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day: First Saturday after Mother's Day each year.

    Become a Reef Ranger: Adopt a Reef and pledge to remove lionfish from it.

    Host a workshop: FWC led lionfish handling and filleting demos. Email name, organization/business name, location and an estimated number of attendees to Lionfish@MyFWC.com.

    Attention Dive Shop Owners:

    Host a "Become the Predator" workshop and excursion. These FWC led workshops, in partnership with dive shops, teach divers to spear and remove lionfish. Interested in hosting a Become the Predator workshop and lionfish excursion? Contact Lionfish@MyFWC.com.

    To feature lionfish brochures Adobe PDF in your shop, send your mailing address and how many brochures you want to Lionfish@MyFWC.com.

    2017 Derby Calendar

    Email the event date, location and address, event name, event website, and event contact information to Lionfish@MyFWC.com to get it featured on the calendar.

    Date

    Location

    Name

    Contact

    2/11

    Key Largo

    REEF Winter Lionfish Derby

    Emily Stokes Emily@REEF.org

    4/20-5/20

    Jacksonville

    Northeast Florida Lionfish Blast

    Donny Trauthwein lionfishblaster@gmail.com

    4/22

    Miami

    4earth Lionfish Derby

    Analisa Duran, Miami Seaquarium education@msq.cc

    5/20-21

    Pensacola

    Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Tournament

    Andy Ross, Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition sharkman58@gmail.com

    5/20-21

    Sebastian

    Sebastian Lionfish Fest (LRAD)

    Kendra Cope kcope@ircgov.com

    5/20-21

    Destin

    Destin Lionfish Tournament (LRAD)

    Robert Provost support@discoverydiveworld.com

    6/2-3

    Jupiter

    7th Annual Lionfish Round-Up 

    info@mclionfish.com

    6/24

    Miami

    7th Annual Lionfish Bash

    Lucy Foerster lucy@woodyfoundation.org


    Other events where you can learn about lionfish:

    2/20 Loggerhead Marinelife Center Invasive Species Awareness, Juno Beach
    4/22-23 The Blue Wild Ocean Adventure Expo, Ft. Lauderdale
    4/22 FSU Marine Lab Open House, St. Teresa
    Upcoming "Become the Predator" workshops:

    Learn about lionfish, their invasion, and how to safely target and remove them from Florida waters.

    1/27 6pm CT Dive Pros, Pensacola
    4/28 6pm CT Discovery Dive World, Destin

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