After a short but scary re-opening of gillnetting in Florida waters, an appeal court Wednesday lifted a lower court’s ruling that had let entanglement gear be used once again following an 18-year ban.
The order from the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee shuts down the gill netting while the court considers the claims by netters during the life of the pending lawsuit by netting interests. Bottom line: Gill nets, no.
The allegations from netters are similar to past attempts to overturn the net ban, but this time Circuit Court Judge Jackie Fulford not only sided with the commercial interests but refused to “stay” her order during the state’s appeal to the District Court.
Judge Fulford’s order declaring that the net ban was unfair and contradictory had opened a floodgate of large net catches just as the mullet roe season moved into high gear. The roe is sold to foreign markets at prices far higher than is paid for the mullet meat itself. Some netters told of making thousands of dollars in a single night’s circling of the egg-laden fish.
Another main target in the days-old gillnetting has been pompano, a prized species that has come back strong since the gill net prohibition which was adopted by 72 per cent of the voters in November 1994, effective July 1, 1995. Ironically, a number of commercial hook-and-line fishermen have expressed support for the prohibition of entanglement gear which was considered the cause of much overfishing and indiscriminate mortality.