FWC WRAPS UP MEETING AT PENSACOLA BEACH
September 5, 2003
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wrapped up its three-day September meeting today at Pensacola Beach after making some tough decisions.
Commissioners approved rule changes to reclassify the red-cockaded woodpecker from a “threatened” species to a “species of special concern.” However, Commissioners reserved the option of revisiting the issue if future stakeholder meetings or staff assessments indicate another classification might be more appropriate.
In addition, Commissioners approved a new management plan for the species, defining additional goals for improving the woodpecker population’s condition in the wild.
The measure affects the species’ listing on the state list only. Federal listing of the red-cockaded woodpecker as an “endangered” species is based on different criteria and will not be affected by FWC action.
Commissioners also heard a report on possible changes to migratory game bird hunting regulations for the 2003-04 hunting season and reviewed and discussed new federal manatee speed zones and their impacts on state zones.
By consensus, Commissioners agreed to direct the agency’s Division of Law Enforcement to enforce state manatee speed zones in Florida’s waters and to consult local government authorities concerning the pros and cons of adopting the new federal manatee speed zones for Duval, Volusia and Lee counties into state rules. Commissioners will consider county governments’ reactions to the issue during their next regular meeting.
In addition, staff updated Commissioners on additional assessments to evaluate proposed reclassification of the manatee from endangered to threatened and on the progress of the Listing Process Stakeholders Panel. The panel is re-evaluating criteria the FWC uses to classify imperiled species.
Regarding public hunting lands, Commissioners:
Thursday’s agenda focused on marine issues. The FWC conducted a final public hearing on proposed pompano and permit rule amendments and voted to raise the pompano and permit minimum size limit for all fishermen from 10 to 11 inches fork length and lower the recreational aggregate bag limit for pompano and permit from 10 to six fish.
Additionally, rule amendments eliminate the Pompano Special Activity License and apply the commercial pompano harvest limit to persons fishing in federal waters, except fishermen who possess a Pompano Endorsement and fish in the approved southwest Florida gill net area. These rules take effect Jan. 1.
In another action regarding the harvest of permit, Commissioners directed staff to conduct public workshops in south Florida to receive input on a proposal to establish a daily recreational vessel limit for permit greater than 20 inches in length.
In other marine fisheries action, the Commission directed staff to work with selected catch-and-release red drum fishing tournaments as soon as possible to initiate a pilot research project that allows “culling” of fish, and evaluate the impacts of culling and fish-handling techniques. The FWC will also review a draft rule in November that would permit catch-and-release red drum fishing tournaments to allow participants to cull fish under certain conditions.
The Commission also directed staff to conduct public workshops in the Big Bend and Pinellas County to discuss trap-marking requirements and a trap endorsement for the black sea bass fishery, and schedule public workshops to receive input on Boca Grande tarpon fishing issues and the development of a commercial shrimp endorsement program for the Gulf coast fishery.
The FWC also discussed federal actions regarding cobia, dolphin and wahoo, agreed to make no changes to the northeast Florida food shrimp production license and approved development of FWC fishery strategic plans.
In addition, Commissioners discussed enforcement efforts regarding the use of illegal fishing nets and directed staff to continue to develop ways to eliminate poaching of saltwater species and received a report on the Martin County net fishing issue.
During the Friday session, Commissioners reviewed and discussed Financial Review Task Force recommendations for the 2004 legislative session and heard staff reports and other administrative matters.
In other business, Commissioners considered alligator population management strategies and major proposed changes to wildlife and freshwater fisheries regulations.
Commissioners also authorized the FWC executive director to negotiate for acquisition of the 7,770-acre Box R Ranch Tract as an addition to the Apalachicola Wildlife and Environmental Area if and when the property becomes available.
The next regular FWC meeting will take place Nov. 19-21 At Duck Key.
Agenda Items FWC Meeting
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