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
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.
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.
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