PROVIDED BY THE FWC - At the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting held on April 18 in Tallahassee, several decisions were made that will impact Boca Grande.
First on the list, state wildlife officials plan to waive the commercial and recreational bag limit and the recreational license requirement for divers harvesting lionfish.
The FWC discussed using certain gear to catch lionfish, a nonnative, invasive species that negatively impacts Florida’s native saltwater fish and wildlife.
In August 2012, the FWC put a temporary rule in place that waived the recreational fishing license requirement when targeting lionfish with a hand-held net, pole spear, Hawaiian sling or any other spearingdevice designed and marketed exclusively for lionfish. This temporary rule change also removed any bag limits when recreationally or commercially harvesting lionfish. Prior to the change, recreational anglers could not catch more than 100 pounds of lionfish without being required to have a commercial license.
The temporary rule change expires August 3.
The commissioners will finalize the license waiver and the bag limit removal at their June meeting in Lakeland.
Currently, the most effective method of removing lionfish from Florida waters is by spearing or using a hand-held net. Removing the license requirements and bag limits will increase lionfish harvest opportunities.
The FWC also approved a 44-day recreational red snapper season for Gulf of Mexico state waters. State waters are from shore to nine nautical miles in Gulf waters.
This season will start June 1 and end July 14. It is inconsistent with the current proposed federal season.
Federal fishery managers recently passed a rule that grants NOAA Fisheries the authority to shorten the federal recreational red snapper season of states that adopt inconsistent red snapper regulations. The current estimate of the recreational red snapper season is 21 days in federal waters off the Gulf coast of Florida.
While the federal limit for how many pounds of red snapper can be caught has increased, the season length has gotten shorter over the past few years because of more fishing effort and larger fish, according to federal fishery managers.
The commission chose to go inconsistent based on reports that the upcoming federal stock assessment would likely show red snapper populations are doing better than previously thought and reports from anglers that the fishery is improving.
Finally, the FWC approved revisions to its gopher tortoise permitting guidelines. The guidelines are based on stakeholder input and designed to be consistent with the updated Gopher Tortoise Management Plan approved in September 2012.
Updated permitting guidelines provide adequate financial planning for the long-term management of gopher tortoise recipient sites, stipulations for the capture of tortoises for relocation when using a backhoe, and criteria to define when to suspend, revoke or not renew an authorized gopher tortoise agent permit.
This action comes during the time of year when gopher tortoises begin their springtime maneuvers through Florida’s open canopy forests and sandy areas. Tortoises are on the move in search of fresh greenery to eat after emerging from winter dormancy in their deep burrows.
“Ever since the 2007 approval of the original Gopher Tortoise Management Plan, the FWC has worked closely with stakeholders to improve and revise both the gopher tortoise permitting guidelines and the management plan,” said Deborah Burr, the FWC’s gopher tortoise management plan coordinator. “Conservation of gopher tortoises and their burrows that shelter other species is our long-term goal, so they always will be part of Florida’s landscape.”
Gopher tortoises live in all of Florida’s 67 counties, preferring high, dry, sandy places such as longleaf pine forests, oak sandhills, pine flatwoods and coastal flatlands and dunes. Their burrows can be recognized by the half-moon shape of the entrance, which curves at the top.
The gopher tortoise is listed as a state threatened species, and it is against the law to harm gopher tortoises, their burrows or eggs. Generally, it is best to leave a gopher tortoise undisturbed, unless you need to move it off a highway. Then it should be placed immediately on the other side of the road and pointed in the same direction that it was traveling.
For more on gopher tortoises, go to MyFWC.com/GopherTortoise.
For more on any of the proposals that were given to the commission, visit MyFWC.com/Commission.
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