FWC News Release

Contact: Lee Schlesinger, (850) 487-0554

Regulations are changing for several recreational and commercial marine reef fish species in waters offshore of Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a series of rule amendments Thursday that will bring Florida regulations in line with recent rule changes for federal waters adjacent to state waters.

Florida state waters extend 9 nautical miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and 3 miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. So-called “federal” waters, also known as the Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ, extend farther offshore beyond state waters. The FWC has regulatory jurisdiction in Florida waters, and federal agencies and councils manage fishing in federal waters.

The new reef fish rules approved by the FWC help make Florida’s rules consistent with recent federal regulatory changes, and as a result, minimize public confusion and aid rule enforcement. They take effect July 1.

In the Atlantic, the rules allow recreational fishers to keep one golden tilefish and one snowy grouper within the five-fish daily aggregate grouper bag limit. The daily recreational bag limit for Atlantic red porgy will jump from one fish to three fish per person and the recreational minimum size limit for Atlantic vermilion snapper will rise from 11 to 12 inches total length. The rules also set commercial trip limits in the Atlantic that are the same as trip limits in federal waters.

Rules for Atlantic black sea bass include increasing the recreational minimum size limit from 10 inches total length to 11 inches total length in 2007, and then to 12 inches total length in 2008, and establishing a June 1 – May 31 harvest season. The rules also require a minimum 2-inch mesh for the back panel of black sea bass traps in the Atlantic, and require removal of black sea bass traps in the Atlantic when the commercial quota is reached.

New Gulf reef fish rules decrease the commercial and recreational minimum size limit for vermilion snapper from 11 to 10 inches total length, eliminate the April 22 through May 31 closed season for commercial harvest of vermilion snapper, establish a zero bag limit for gag, red and black grouper for captains and crew on for-hire vessels, and remove the requirement for Class I and Class II commercial red snapper licenses.

Other rules approved by the FWC designate golden tilefish as a “restricted species” in Florida, change the minimum size limit of vermillion snapper imported into Florida from 11 to 10 inches total length, and prohibit commercial fishermen from harvesting or possessing the recreational bag limit of reef fish species on commercial trips.