The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will meet May 2-3 at the Plantation Inn, Crystal River, to discuss several fish-and-wildlife conservation issues, including red snapper and roundscale spearfish management, anchoring and mooring, wild hog management and manatee zones. The May 2-3 dates reflect a change of schedule, but the location is the same.
On the first day, following recognition of individual FWC employees for their marine fisheries conservation efforts, the focus shifts to the consent agenda, a report by FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley and staff updates on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
Items on the marine fisheries agenda include final approval of amendments that would set the 2012 Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper season, and three of the consent agenda items: the management of roundscale spearfish and language updates to reef fish recreational bag limits and to the Spiny Lobster Trap Certificate Program.
Roundscale spearfish harvest has been prohibited in state waters since 1999 because the fish rarely come into Florida waters. Roundscale spearfish catches often get mistaken for white marlin. The consent agenda item on roundscale spearfish will align how Florida manages roundscale spearfish with recent changes to federal management efforts. The proposed final rule would allow harvest of roundscale spearfish, adding it to the marlin and sailfish one-fish bag and possession limit.
Also on the consent agenda are two draft rule items that propose updating rule language. These updates are part of a recent effort to clarify marine fisheries rules and make them easier to understand. The first change will update the multi-day charter trip and off-water possession limits for reef fish. The Spiny Lobster Trap Certificate Program consent agenda item will make FWC rule match Florida Statute by shortening the length of time trap certificate fees can go unpaid before the certificate reverts back to the FWC and can no longer be reissued.
Hunting issues are also on the consent agenda
Staff will request approval of rules to expand gray squirrel season on private lands and, in concert with this change, to retain current gray squirrel seasons on wildlife management areas and environmental areas.
Next, the agenda turns to an anchoring and mooring pilot program ordinance for St. Petersburg. The city ordinance applies to anchoring or mooring non-live-aboard vessels outside the marked boundaries of public mooring fields. Approval by the Commission is required before the ordinance can be enforced. Following that, staff will report on wild hog management in Florida and how it provides for hunting opportunities and other tools to control feral hogs.
Before recessing the May 2 portion of the two-day meeting, the public will be invited to comment on items not on the agenda. The second day also starts with recognition of conservation excellence and a presentation of a Youth Hunting Program Landowner of the Year award.
Next on the agenda is a proposed rule to establish new state zones that limit allowable motorboat speeds in portions of Flagler County from May 1 to Sept. 7, remove existing zones in Flagler County that are a part of the Volusia County rule, and provide a reference to the location of maps illustrating the zones. An update on the Central Everglades Restoration Project is next, followed by other staff reports and public comment on items not on the agenda.
Anyone requiring special accommodations to participate in the meeting should advise the FWC at least five calendar days prior to the May 2 meeting by contacting the FWC’s Office of Human Resources at 850-488-6411. If you are hearing- or speech-impaired, contact the FWC using the Florida Relay Service at 800-955-8771 (TDD) or 800-955-8770 (voice).