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

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Thursday proposed several amendments to management rules for Florida’s lobster fishery. Commissioners also considered a wide range of other lobster management issues that will require further review.

Proposed rule changes would extend a moratorium on reducing traps in the lobster fishery for an additional year, allow two commercial lobster license holders to fish on the same vessel, reduce the time trap certificates can remain unused, and protect egg-bearing females of all lobster species in Florida state waters.

The FWC has been conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the biological, economic and social issues regarding Florida’s lobster fishery since 2004. The Commission considered recommendations made by an advisory board of lobster stakeholders and comments from the public at numerous public workshops and online surveys as part of its analysis of the lobster fishery.

Management of Florida’s lobster fishery is complex. The fishery is composed of several user groups, including commercial trappers and divers, bully netters and recreational harvesters. Key management issues include the number of traps used in the fishery, season length, the commercial dive fishery, license fees, allocation of the fishery among user groups, the special two-day sport season, and other related matters.

The Commission is addressing some of these issues with its proposed rule changes. However, other lobster management considerations are expected to take more time to develop and may require legislative action.

Rules proposed by the Commission include extending the current moratorium on reducing the number of traps in the lobster fishery until July 1, 2009. This will give the FWC time to work with lobster user groups to resolve concerns regarding trap reduction.

Another proposed rule would allow two different spiny lobster endorsement holders to pull traps from the same vessel. This would help make it easier for new license holders who don’t own a vessel yet to work their traps.

Other proposed rules would revert trap certificates not paid for, back to the FWC after two years instead of three and prohibit the harvest of any egg-bearing females of all lobster species, which will help ensure the health of the marine ecosystem.

A final public hearing on these proposed rule changes will be held during the Commission’s April meeting in Tallahassee.

The Commission will continue to review other lobster issues such as the management of the commercial lobster dive fishery, including transferability of commercial dive certificates and display of commercial endorsement numbers on fishing and diving gear.

The Commission also will continue to review several recommendations from its lobster advisory board and the public. These recommendations include removing a trap certificate surcharge, creating a government-funded certificate buyback program, increasing the $2 recreational lobster permit fee, creating a new permit for the special two-day sport season in Monroe County and increasing penalties for harvesting lobsters from illegal artificial habitats.

If the Commission decides to take action on these issues, legislation also will be needed but probably won’t occur before 2009.