FWC Press Release

Contacts: (inland issues) Henry Cabbage (850) 528-1755
(marine issues) Lee Schlesinger (850) 487-0554

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wrapped up its two-day meeting at Melbourne after addressing a broad range of issues.

Commissioners approved a draft rule outlining bonding requirements for exhibiting potentially dangerous animals and venomous reptiles, a requirement passed by the Legislature during the 2007 session. Subject to the governor’s approval, final public hearings for the draft rule will be at the September Commission meeting.

Commissioners also passed a new rule concerning FWC-managed lands and approved members of a panel to evaluate a petition to change the listing status of the peregrine falcon during 2007-08.

Following an overview of the imperiled species management plan process, Commissioners reviewed drafts of management plans for manatees, gopher tortoises and Panama City crayfish. Final consideration of the management plans for the manatee and gopher tortoise will take place at the FWC’s September meeting in St. Petersburg. Final consideration for the Panama City crayfish will take place at the Commission’s February meeting in Panama City.

Commissioners also approved an interim policy to end entombment of gopher tortoises – requiring developers to relocate them, rather than allow the animals to be buried in their burrows amid development. The interim policy will remain in effect until the FWC can launch the new permitting framework, proposed in the draft gopher tortoise management plan.

FWC staff presented an array of proposed changes to the Alligator Management Program. Commissioners directed the staff to proceed with developing rules to change some of the allowable methods of taking alligators and to step up efforts to make Floridians more aware of ways to coexist with alligators peacefully.

In addition, Commissioners approved land-acquisition proposals including the Nature Conservancy’s Davidson Ranch parcel as a mitigation park, the Nature Conservancy’s donation of the Janet Butterfield Brooks Preserve as a mitigation park and two donated Nature Conservancy parcels as additions to Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area.

Concerning marine issues, the FWC approved rule amendments for snook that lower the daily recreational bag limit from two fish to one on Florida’s Atlantic Coast and narrow the current 27-34 inches total length snook slot limit to 28-32 inches in Atlantic waters and 28-33 inches in Gulf, Everglades National Park and Monroe County waters.

Rule amendments also add the first half of December and all of February to the closed harvest season in Gulf, Everglades and Monroe County waters and allow snook anglers statewide to carry more than one cast net aboard a vessel. The new snook rules will be in place in time for the reopening of snook season in September.

Commissioners also discussed proposed new rules that would allow licensed trap fishers to designate people to recover and possess their traps when the governor and FWC declare an emergency. The proposed rules also would exempt local, state and federal officials from having to get FWC approval before removing traps, derelict traps and trap debris from areas where trapping is prohibited.

In addition, the Commission proposed a rule amendment that would allow recreational fishers to use fold-up blue crab traps with square sides. A final public hearing on all of these proposed rules will be scheduled for the September Commission meeting.

In other marine fisheries action, Commissioners directed staff to continue to work with stakeholders and develop a full range of management options for the Atlantic and Gulf coasts that work toward achieving a 40-percent escapement goal for red drum.

The FWC also heard an update on issues and proposed rules for spiny lobster and discussed federal fisheries management issues.

The meeting agenda is available online at MyFWC.com/commission/2007/Jun07/index.html.

The next FWC meeting is set for Sept. 12-14 in St. Petersburg.