FWC News Release
Contact: Lee Schlesinger (850) 487-0554

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is urging the National Marine Fisheries Service not to grant 13 commercial long-line fishermen a permit to fish in closed Atlantic waters off Florida.

In an April 20 letter to the service, the FWC said the exempted fishing permit would run counter to significant improvements to populations of swordfish and other migratory species, including tunas, dolphin fish, sharks and wahoo in the South Atlantic.

“We cannot support a proposal that may significantly increase fishing impacts, possibly reversing the tremendous gains we have seen in our recreational swordfish and other billfish populations,” the letter, signed by FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto, said. “These fisheries are of major economic importance to Florida.”

The stated purpose for the permit is to let 13 commercial long-line vessels test modifications to their fishing gear to see if they reduce unwanted bycatch of juvenile swordfish, other migratory species, and protected sea turtles.

Long-line gear is a fishing technique that uses large numbers of baited hooks hanging from a single line, and it has been banned in the Atlantic from southern Florida to South Carolina since 2001. The FWC opposed a similar request to test long-line gear here in 2005 and instead has suggested testing gear that will not result in a large-scale reopening of this fishery.

“While we support other ways to evaluate the commercial fishery and reduce bycatch, we must carefully regulate the commercial harvest so swordfish and other migratory species continue to flourish,” the letter said. “Because of these concerns we ask that this permit be denied.”

The FWC expects the service to decide by summer whether to grant the permit.