FWC wraps up 2-day meeting in Apalachicola
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Media contact: (inland issues) Henry Cabbage, 850-488-8843; (marine issues) Lee Schlesinger, 850-487-0554
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) waded through numerous high-profile issues during
its meeting in Apalachicola Wednesday and Thursday.
The meeting opened with a presentation of the 2009
Louise Ireland Humphrey Achievement Award to former FWC Law
Enforcement Director Julie Jones. In September, Jones was
appointed executive director of the Florida Department of Highway
Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Commissioners recognized national-award-winning
artist Elam Stoltzfus of Blountstown. The FSU graduate has
already won 35 prestigious awards in his brief career as a film
producer. He heads up the media company Live Oak Production
In a vote of interest to sportsmen, commissioners
gave a thumbs-up to revamping deer hunting zones and dates to align
them with the rut - the period of peak deer activity associated
with the breeding season.
Commissioners also gave final approval to new rules
to clarify regulation of nuisance wildlife and nonnative wildlife.
In addition, they approved new hunting and fishing regulations for
public lands and created a special two-day, youth spring turkey
season for supervised kids, under age 16. The rule package included
substantial increases in a variety of hunting opportunities on
In other action during Wednesday's session,
commissioners directed staff to proceed with developing new rules
to tighten regulation of reptiles of concern. Proposals include
extending amnesty to pet owners who turn over reptiles of concern
to licensed individuals and incorporate changes to the required
permanent identification of the animals. Chairman Rodney Barreto
urged staff to develop the strictest rules possible.
In addition, commissioners directed FWC staff to
continue work on a series of rule proposals on captive wildlife
regarding Critical Incident/Disaster plans, hobbyists and labeling
on wildlife shipments. A draft rule also was approved, updating the
process by which counties notify the FWC regarding local zoning and
building codes for proposed facilities housing Class I or Class II
Commissioners received an update on the fox or
coyote enclosure permit process on Wednesday. The report included
the results of recent FWC investigations into the operation of
enclosures where hunters pursue foxes or coyotes with dogs.
Commissioners decided to temporarily prohibit the chasing of foxes
and coyotes in enclosures while staff drafts rules guiding such
enclosures in Florida.
On Thursday, the meeting began with the
Commissioners recognizing retired general counsel Jim Antista.
Antista began working as general counsel with the Game and Fresh
Water Fish Commission (GFC) in 1990. He represented the GFC
and FWC in a variety of complex legal cases, including such things
as litigation involving high-water lines and boundaries between
state-owned submerged lands and private lands; drafted legislation
to modernize penalties for violating fish and wildlife rules;
principally drafted the implementing bill creating the FWC; and
Thursday's agenda included a staff report regarding
several technical problems in the FWC's licensing system.
Commissioners directed staff to change the current first-come,
first-served selection of participants for quota hunts in favor of
a less technology-dependent random selection method for the first
phase of the permit-issuance process.
Another staff report focused on an initiative to
establish youth conservation centers around the state to offer
children opportunities to connect with wildlife and nature through
many types of outdoor recreational activities.
Also on Thursday, the Commission approved rules to
prohibit all harvest of lemon sharks from Florida waters and extend
the expiration date of the moratorium on new spiny lobster
commercial dive permits from July 1, 2010 until July 1, 2015.
These rules take effect on March 23.
In addition, commissioners proposed a draft rule
that would include all species of bonefish found in Florida in the
FWC's bonefish management rules, extend Florida bonefish
regulations into adjacent federal waters, and require that bonefish
be landed in a whole condition.
Another proposed draft rule would allow all
ballyhoo endorsement holders to sell their endorsement to other
commercial fishers from July 1 - March 31 each year, limit any one
entity from holding more than two ballyhoo endorsements at any one
time, prohibit leasing of the endorsement, and allow only one
endorsement per saltwater products license and one saltwater
products license to be associated with a single endorsement.
The FWC also approved a draft rule to allow oyster
harvesters to stow hand tongs on their unmoored vessels from sunset
to sunrise so that they can transit to oyster bars before dawn and
begin harvesting oysters at sunrise.
Final public hearings will be held in April on the
FWC's proposed draft rules for bonefish, ballyhoo and oysters.
The FWC also proposed a draft rule for weakfish,
also known as gray seatrout or yellow-mouth trout, that would apply
Florida's weakfish management rules only in state waters of the St.
Marys River in Nassau County, provide that all weakfish-like fish
(including weakfish, sand seatrout and their hybrids) would be
considered weakfish in this management area, and reduce the daily
recreational bag limit for weakfish from four fish to one fish and
establish a commercial weakfish harvest limit of 100 pounds per
vessel per day or trip (whichever is longer) in the weakfish
management area. A final public hearing on the proposed
weakfish rule amendments will take place in June.
In other marine fisheries action, the Commission
discussed Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean red snapper and other
federal fishery management issues.
The next FWC regular meeting will be in the
Tallahassee area April 28-29.