May 16, 2011
Didn't we get rid of those nasty things?
But, as we warn in a conservation segment on our Florida Sportsman TV show, there's a stealthy move afoot to bring back the deadly entangling gear.
Your help is needed for a major fight against this gillnet ploy.
A small group of commercial netters is asking the state to allow a larger mesh size on legal seine nets, supposedly to let “baby fish” escape. But in reality, the mesh larger than two inches would open the gates to gillnetting, or catching larger fish by the gills or other body parts.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has agreed to discuss the proposed change at a meeting June 12 (but check FS.com or the state for possible changes) at the International Game Fish Association in Dania.
Anglers should turn out in substantial numbers to protect the Net Ban. The reform has been revolutionary for the fish populations.
Here's the situation:
The public voted overwhelmingly in '94 to ban gill nets by constitutional amendment. The amendment allows, however, seine nets of up to 500 square feet, which envelop or bag fish rather than entangle them.
In implementing the amendment, the state prohibited monofilament in the seines and set a maximum stretched mesh size of two inches.
These rules were challenged by netters a number of times, but the courts upheld the requirements, over and over.
One judge said the two-inch mesh limit “maintains the integrity of the ban on entangling nets.”
So why in the world is this coming up again?
Well, the netters are clever, give them that. They ignore the gilling factor and claim they're out to save the baby fish.
What's at stake?
Netters using a couple boats and multiple large-mesh “seines” could wipe out larger fish at docks or other prime spots, just like in the old slaughter days.
The FWC needs to fully understand the difference between gill nets and seine nets. The first tangles up and kills fish, the second encloses them and lets them go or uses them lawfully.
Of course, all nets occasionally gill fish by accident. But as a judge noted, the definition may be based on function. When gear primarily functions as gill net, it is a gill net.
Let's not let gill nets slip in a side door of confusion.
Keep the seine-net mesh at two inches—or even smaller.