May 16, 2011
There are dark clouds of closure hanging over Florida fishermen, although we can look at some rays of sunshine as well.
The impending closures, which you may well be wailing about, are “emergency” measures proposed by federal managers.
Based on highly suspect premises, in our view, the rules would close down all red snapper and most grouper fishing (see On the Conservation Front in this issue) on the east coast. We think it's an emergency only in the eyes of several office-bound beholders.
Moving on to that happier note, in hopes of stemming the steam coming out of our ears, there's good news on the inshore fishing scene that should add considerably to the redfish populations.
State and private advocates are accelerating work on a network of saltwater fish hatcheries and enhancement facilities that have the potential to make a huge difference on our inshore scene.
Though long overdue, the program fits neatly into the better-late-than-never drawer. We should all get behind the effort with tremendous enthusiasm.
A combination of public and private resources can make this happen without further years of pondering and naysaying. Let's do it.
The Wildlife Foundation of Florida, an arm of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, is shepherding the plan. See support floridasportfish.com.
What's different this time around, I think and hope, is that many of the players are interested in real production and large releases instead of duplicitous research.
Of course, we've had sputtering programs that have put redfish in the waters of Tampa Bay, and earlier in Miami and near Daytona, but the quantities have been virtually nothing compared to the long successful program in Texas. There, they release up to 37 million redfish fingerlings in a single year, plus other species.
It's a good sign, we'd say, that some of Florida's key folks are visiting the Texas facilities and showing more positive interest in that state's amazing track record.
One productive effort is developing at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Fort Pierce. Staffers are growing redfish and other species as they fine-tune equipment. They plan to build covered grow ponds on land already set aside. Associate Executive Director Megan Davis guesstimated that Harbor Branch alone could raise four million reds for release.
Overall success of the state's initiative now will depend on how much private sources and the public truly want this to succeed.
We either pitch in big, or go back to the sputtering stage.