So you can buy and sell that prized fish cobia all day long in Miami.

But you can’t sell one ounce of that great fish in Charleston.

Why in the world is that?

We’d like to think that the difference is a matter of science and good research. But no.

It’s a matter of fisheries politics and commercial influence.

In Miami, and in all the rest of Florida, the fish-selling interests cling to outdated powers
over state regulatory agencies. It matters not how much studies and common sense show that non-commercial use is best for the most citizens.

In Charleston, and in all the rest of South Carolina, conservation-minded officials are basically in step with modern fisheries management.

The handling of cobia is a perfect example, and should serve as a role model for us.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has designated cobia to be a “gamefish” which regulators there define as not for sale or any kind of barter. That means family-level fishing only.

Florida on the other hand still allows cobia sales, though limits have been reduced over the years.

At any rate, the recreational angler in South Carolina nowadays may keep two no-sale cobia per day, while the Floridian’s max is one. It’s no coincidence, we think, that the doubled limit is in the same state where sales are prohibited. It’s the old story of selling wildlife and depleting a stock.

Cobia are not needed on the seafood market (where they’re often sold as something else anyway). And yet the sought-after cobes are indeed needed on the recreational scene and their seeming increased abundance is a welcome fin in the box on an often troubled fishing scene.

We urge Florida’s regulators to snip the price tags off cobia, as well as off another super-popular fish, the spotted seatrout.

Instead, a somewhat misled Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently doubled the commercial potential trout take and came close to allowing resumed seine netting of trout.

Commercial influence, especially in North Florida, marches on for now.

Trout, it may be emphasized, already is a gamefish (with a 10-fish bag) in that same role model state: South Carolina.

Karl Wickstrom

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