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  • 07/30/2017 2:23 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Capt. Pat Kelly recently presented the 2017 Phil Chapman Conservation Award to Mr. Gil McRae. The occasion was a recent meeting of the FWC in Orlando. 

    Kelly recognized McRae for his passionate commitment to the conservation of Florida’s marine fisheries.

    “I know I speak for many when I say it has been a privilege to have Gil at the top tier of FWC’s leadership. Gil’s dedication to his profession, his work ethic and his stellar career with FWRI make him an example to be followed, and personifies the essence of the Capt. Phil Chapman Award,” said Capt. Pat Kelly, Past President, Florida Guides Association.

    For 15 years McRae has lead FWRI, which provides the scientific foundation for the management of Florida’s fish and wildlife resources. He oversees more than 30 FWRI offices across the state, which encompass programs such as the impacts of red tides, freshwater flows and levels, the research that guides the conservation and management actions for many of Florida’s important and unique species, as well as data collection for all of Florida’s saltwater commercial and recreational fisheries.

    “We truly appreciate Gil’s expertise and leadership. Our scientists and researchers are the guiding force behind what we do,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski.

    McRae received a Bachelor of Science degree in aquatic ecology from the University of Michigan and a Master of Science degree in fisheries science with a minor in statistics from the University of Minnesota. He has worked for the FWC since 1995 and has been the director of FWRI since 2002.

    FGA is extremely proud to present Gil McRae with the Phil Chapman Conservation Award. 


  • 07/30/2017 1:56 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Capt. Pat Kelly was on hand at the recent FWC meeting in Orlando to present awards to two deserving FWC officers. They were each chosen through a process of nomination. Officer Michael Bibeau has been an FWC officer for seven years. Officer Peter “Sean” Gaudion has been with FWC since 2013. The FGA Trained-Eyes Coast Watcher Officer of the Year Award is given for outstanding service to the state of Florida and its fishery.

    Officer Michael Bibeau

    Officer Michael Bibeau is married to Kara Bibeau and they live happily in Pinellas County. Mike was born and raised in Pinellas and attended USF in Tampa before being accepted to the academy. He started his career with the FWC in Collier County and we were lucky enough as a region to have him transfer back roughly three years ago. He enjoys the outdoors and loves to golf, fish and spend time with his wife on the beach.

    Like all Pinellas County officer’s, Mike does his fair share of outreach events throughout the year. He is a true ambassador for the FWC and represents all law enforcement officers in a positive light. His attitude and professionalism is why he has been a Field Training Officer six times and he takes that responsibility very seriously.

    Mike has a true knack for finding, and catching, those who break our resource laws. Florida’s resource protection is his passion, and time after time you’ll see him waiting and watching and then catching these violators. His patience, dedication, and knowledge make him such an asset to the agency that there is rarely a time you won’t see his name in the weekly report. Mike continues his excellence in resource protection by sharing his knowledge with other officers on the ins and outs of making quality resource cases.

    In 2016 Mike made 54 misdemeanor arrests, 6 warrant arrests, 2 felony arrests. He also wrote 37 uniform boating citations and 215 written warnings. He documented 400 hours of water patrol. He participated in multiple search and rescues and was nominated for a life-saving award.

    FGA is very proud to name Mike as co-recipient of this prestigious award.

    Officer Peter “Sean” Gaudion

    Officer Peter “Sean” Gaudion has been assigned to Pinellas County for the entire length of his service. Sean is a native Floridian and has lived in the Tampa Bay area for most of his life, after moving from Broward County at a young age. Sean is an avid fisherman and outdoorsman with a true passion for protecting Florida’s resources.

    Sean has always had a competitive nature that became evident when he received a scholarship to play football at UCF in Orlando. He participated in that program from 1999-2003. This competiveness and drive to succeed is also displayed in his daily work routine. Sean truly cares about making a positive impact on the citizens and resources of Florida. Sean has a wife, Brittney and a 1 year old daughter, Hazel. Sean is passionate about his job but his family is his true passion in his life.

    Sean is a team player that rarely takes full credit for his accomplishments. He networks with other officers and community members to organize efforts to stop major violations. He has organized multiple details targeting misdemeanor and felony resource violations. Sean submitted an operational detail report to target illegal net fishing activity that resulted in 27 misdemeanor arrests, 9 felony arrests and 12 warnings. He also submitted a detail, still on-going, to target a wide range of crab trap violations that has resulted in 4 misdemeanor and 3 felony arrests.

    Sean always comes to work with a positive attitude which inspires and motivates others. He sets the example for new officers and exemplifies the fact that hard work is rewarded. Sean uses discretion when dealing with the public. He educates violators with warnings when possible and charges individuals when necessary.

    In 2016, Sean made 47 misdemeanor and 9 felony resource-related arrests. Many of Sean’s cases involved working late nights into early mornings. He worked long shifts in harsh conditions that many officers were not willing to work. He accomplished this success while responding to SAR missions, multiple calls for service and being a member of the Southwest Special Operations Group (SOG). His SOG responsibilities included monthly training and responding to two hurricanes for multiple days at a time.

    FGA is proud to name Sean as co-recipient of the 2017 FGA “Trained-Eyes Coast Watcher” Officer of the year award.


  • 07/30/2017 10:31 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Sawfish Handling and Release Guidelines 
    by Tonya Wiley, Haven Worth Consulting

    Smalltooth sawfish are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, which makes it illegal to target, harm, harass, or handle them in any way.  While it is technically illegal to catch a sawfish (except with a research permit or in a fishery where incidental take has been authorized) captures do occur while fishing for other species.  Any sawfish caught while fishing must be released as quickly as possible.


    The guidelines below were developed to aid anglers in quickly and safely releasing incidentally caught sawfish.  These guidelines take into account the safety of both the endangered sawfish and the angler.  Sawfish are large, powerful animals that can cause serious injury, so use caution if you do catch one.
    The number one rule to remember when handling and releasing a sawfish is to leave it in the water at all times.  Do not lift it out of the water onto your boat or a pier, and do not drag it on shore. 

    General Release Guidelines:

    • ·        Leave the sawfish in the water
    • ·        Do not remove the saw (rostrum) or injure the animal in any way
    • ·        Remove as much fishing gear as safely possible
    • ·        Use extreme caution when handling and releasing sawfish as the saw can thrash violently from side to side
    • ·        Never use a gaff or drag the sawfish on a boat or on shore

    If hooked:

    • ·        Leave the sawfish, especially the gills, in the water
    • ·        If it can be done safely, untangle any line wrapped around the saw
    • ·        Cut the line as close to the hook as possible
    • ·        If hooked internally do NOT attempt to remove the hook, remove as much line as possible and cut the line close to the hook

    If tangled in a cast net:

    • ·        Leave the sawfish, especially the gills, in the water
    • ·        Untangle and cut the net removing as much of it as possible from the animal
    • ·        Release the sawfish quickly

    Sawfish are extremely susceptible to entanglement in recreational fishing lines and commercial nets.  Mishandling and the purposeful injury and killing of captured sawfish is both illegal and detrimental to the recovery of the population.  Never use a gaff on a sawfish you have caught and never remove the rostrum.  Rachel Scharer, a Sawfish Biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Charlotte Harbor Field Laboratory said “Lately we have been getting numerous public reports of an encounter with a sawfish missing its rostrum, and we have seen several sawfish without a rostrum during our research.”  Sawfish use their rostrum for detecting and catching food so in addition to being illegal, removal of the rostrum likely severely limits the animal’s chance to find enough food to survive.
    If you catch or see a sawfish take a quick photograph of the sawfish, estimate its size, note your location, and share the details with scientists.  The details of your sightings or catches of sawfish help to monitor the population and track the recovery progress.  You can share your information by calling 844-4-SAWFISH (844-472-9347) or emailing sawfish@myfwc.com.    

    Some fishermen have expressed concern that reporting encounters will result in the closure of their favorite fishing locations.  However, the smalltooth sawfish is already listed as an endangered species and critical habitat has been designated and neither of these actions has resulted in any closed fishing areas for recreational or commercial anglers.  Your encounter reports will be used to track recovery of the population and steer research efforts, which will ultimately benefit the species and the areas in which you fish.  Adam Brame, the Sawfish Recovery Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries, said “We are confident that NOAA and recreational anglers can work together to recover smalltooth sawfish so future generations can experience the thrill of encountering such a unique animal.”

    For more information about sawfish visit:

    http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/fish/sawfish/ or http://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/pr/species/fish/smalltooth-sawfish.html

    All photographs were provided by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Charlotte Harbor Field Laboratory.  

  • 07/02/2017 11:44 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Celebrate the Fourth of July with bay scallops. State waters from the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County through the Pasco/Hernando county line will be open for scalloping starting July 1. A span of waters in the middle from the Fenholloway River in Taylor County to the Suwannee River in Dixie County opened earlier this month on June 16 and will close on Sept. 10. (See map.)                              

    These new season dates are for 2017 only and are an opportunity to explore regionally-specific bay scallop seasons. Harvesting bay scallops is a fun outdoor activity that the whole family can participate in. It also brings an important economic boost to coastal areas in the open region.  

    The scallop season in St. Joseph Bay in Gulf County will be July 25 through Sept. 10 and includes all waters in St. Joseph Bay and those west of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County, through the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County.  

    All state waters from the Pasco-Hernando county line to the Suwannee River Alligator Pass Daybeacon 4 in Levy County, and from north and west of Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County will be open July 1 through Sept. 24.  

    Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff worked with local community leaders on selecting these regional 2017 season dates. 

    At the December 2017 Commission meeting, staff will review public feedback on these changes and make a recommendation for future management. Staff will host public workshops to gather feedback after the season closes. To submit your feedback now on bay scallop regulations, visit MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments.  

    Bag and vessel limits throughout the entire bay scallop harvest zone are 2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person, with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel.  

    Scallops may be collected by hand or with a landing or dip net.  

    Scallops must be landed within the area that is open to harvest.  

    There is no commercial harvest allowed for bay scallops in Florida.  

    Be safe when diving for scallops. Stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or buoy when scalloping in open water and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or buoy if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. Boat operators traveling within 300 feet of a divers-down flag or buoy in open water or 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel must slow to idle speed.  

    Done for the day? Help FWC’s scallop researchers by completing an online survey at svy.mk/bayscallopsHarvesters can indicate where they harvest scallops, how many they collect and how long it takes to harvest them. Participants can email BayScallops@MyFWC.com to ask questions or send additional information.  

    Learn more about long-term trends in the open and closed scalloping areas by visiting MyFWC.com/Research and clicking on “Saltwater,” “Molluscs,” “Bay Scallops” and “Bay Scallop Season and Abundance Survey.”  

    For more information on the season date changes for 2017, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and select “Commission Meetings,” then click on “2016” and “Agenda” under the November meeting.  

    For information on bay scallop regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops.”

  • 05/02/2017 7:24 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is launching new programs to encourage people to help remove nonnative Burmese pythons from the Everglades ecosystem and surrounding area. Two new programs and a new Executive Order will provide people with incentives and expanded opportunities to remove these invasive constrictors.

    The Python Pickup Program is a new program designed to encourage the public to remove and report wild Burmese pythons by rewarding participants with valuable prizes. Starting now, anyone can participate in this innovative new program. People who remove pythons simply need to submit photographic evidence of the snake as well as the location from which it was removed. Anyone who submits this information will receive a free Python Pickup T-shirt for submitting their first entry. For every submission received, participants will be entered into a monthly prize drawing as well as a grand prize drawing to be held next year. Monthly prizes include snake hooks, custom engraved Yeti tumblers, Plano sportsman's trunks, GoPro cameras and Badlands backpacks. The grand prize is a Florida Lifetime Sportsman's License. The first drawing will take place in May 2017.

    As part of the Python Pickup, people can submit pythons removed from any property in Florida where they have authorization to do so from the property owner or land manager.

    A recent Executive Order allows people to remove pythons year-round from 22 public lands with no hunting license or wildlife management area permit required.

    "We know many Florida residents and visitors want to help tackle this tough conservation challenge by going after pythons in the wild and removing any they can find," said FWC Executive Director, Nick Wiley. "We want to continue to encourage and support this important citizen conservation effort. This Executive Order clarifies regulatory questions and makes it easier than ever for people to remove Burmese pythons from the wild."

    Earlier this month, the FWC also launched a Python Contractor Program which pays participants for efforts to remove Burmese pythons from the wild. The FWC selected 22 contractors already experienced with capturing wild Burmese pythons. Contractors are paid an hourly wage for their efforts to remove Burmese pythons. The FWC will also pay contractors for each snake removed. The program is similar to one recently implemented by the South Florida Water Management District.

    People interested in training on how to identify and safely remove pythons can take part in a Python Patrol Training. For more information, go to MyFWC.com/Python and click on "Python Patrol."

    The FWC will continue to work with the public and partners to explore other projects aimed at removing pythons and other nonnative species in Florida.

    People can also help with efforts to manage Burmese pythons and other nonnative species by reporting sightings to the FWC's Exotic Species Reporting Hotline at 888-Ive-Got1 (888-483-4681), online at IveGot1.org, or by downloading the free "IveGot1" smartphone app.

    For more information on Burmese pythons in Florida and the various management programs, visit MyFWC.com/Python.

  • 03/03/2017 9:26 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    FWC Meeting in Crystal River, Notes and Commentary
    By Capt. Danny R. Guarino

    As many of you know, I spent the day at the FWC commission meeting held in Crystal River on Feb 8, 2017. It was very interesting and I would like to share my notes and commentary with you.

    Quite a bit of time was spent looking at the Federal legislative outlook. I got the impression the commission is optimistic on what the new Trump administration will bring to the table. I think the FGA needs to be prepared to voice our positions in a rapidly changing environment.

    Reading between the lines I think the Commission believes Trump’s administration will bring a positive outcome to business with less concern on environmental issues. It appears the commission is in a wait and see mode as I think we should be.

    What we do know is:

    The last congress did not approve an appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017. So, for now it appears that the bills introduced last year that have not been raised or acted upon are in limbo and will have to be re-introduced.

    Included in these bills, but not limited to, are:

    Bills opposing closure of a portion Biscayne National Park S.3099,S.2807,H.R.3310, H.R.5538 .

    Congressional Bills related to red snapper H.R.3094, S.2837 H.R. 5393,

    Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and management Act H.R. 1335, S.1403,

    Congressional Bills related to Sharks S.3099, S.3095 H.R. 5584

    Recovering Americans Wildlife Act H.R. 5650

    Pittman Roberts Fund for Tomorrows Need Act H.R.4818 S.2690,

    Sportsmen act H.R. 2406 S.405

    It was stated that most if not all these bills will be reintroduced. My questions is if they will be the same bill or will they change. No one knows at this point, so review of the new bills will be prudent.

    Highlights of some of the statewide topics

    Goliath grouper

    In a discussion on goliath grouper, FWC staff reviewed the species’ management history, biology, and stock assessments. Stakeholder input on the management of goliath grouper has varied from interest in opening a harvest to continuing with the current harvest prohibition.

    FWC staff is interested in hearing more from the public on the management of this species, including the possibility of a limited harvest. That was the official statement.

    From what I can understand FWCI would like to have a limited harvest in order to gather more information. If we do in fact get a limited harvest, there will be many restrictions and most likely the harvest would be done with some type of permit that the user will pay for. The harvest would be very small. I was hearing numbers of around 100 to 200 fish per season. Only enough of a kill to satisfy the research. I would not get our hopes up of having an open season on Goliath Grouper.

    Bay Scallop

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) discussed the current status of bay scallops in St. Joseph Bay in Gulf County; approved regional changes to the bay scallop season dates in Gulf County and areas surrounding Gulf County; and discussed potential season dates in Dixie County and parts of Taylor County. These changes are for 2017 only and are an opportunity to explore regionally-specific bay scallop seasons.

    The jest of the discussions were to establish a scallop season that best fit the economic requirement of the areas that harvest scallops. I believe this is what you will see published for the seasons. A bulletin will be issued by the FWC very soon.

    Gulf County, including all waters in St. Joseph Bay and those west of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County through the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County. July 25 through Sept. 10.

    Dixie County and parts of Taylor County FWC appears to be leaning toward an earlier opening date somewhere near the middle of June. Again, this was and is going to be based on stakeholder input. A final decision will be made in a few days after more input is taken.

    For the rest of the counties that are within the Scallop zone, season will open July 1 and close Sept 24. Bag limits have not changed and bag and vessel limits throughout the entire bay scallop harvest zone will be two gallons of whole bay scallops in shell, or one pint of bay scallop meat per person with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell, or a 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel. Zones for this year have not changed but it looks as though the 2018 season may include Pasco county.

    Final thought

    Here is a comment I just have to make - There was quite a bit of public comment both for and against hand feeding sharks. It appears that some dive business want to be able to do this and some do not. I have to question the validity of a law and those that spend a lot of time, effort and money to make a law to stop anyone from hand feeding sharks. Maybe I'm missing something, but I would just let whoever wants to feed a shark feed the shark. If they do it wrong, they will stop the practice.

    Capt. Danny R. Guarino
    Vice President Florida Guides Association
    Host Tampa Fishing Outfitters Radio Show
    Mercury Pro Team
    813-956-2010
    www.fishingguidetampabay.com
    SHPOINT@AOL.COM


  • 03/02/2017 6:42 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)
    Florida Lionfish Events for 2017


    Get involved with lionfish removal by attending one of the following derbies or events.
    Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day: First Saturday after Mother's Day each year.

    Become a Reef Ranger: Adopt a Reef and pledge to remove lionfish from it.

    Host a workshop: FWC led lionfish handling and filleting demos. Email name, organization/business name, location and an estimated number of attendees to Lionfish@MyFWC.com.

    Attention Dive Shop Owners:

    Host a "Become the Predator" workshop and excursion. These FWC led workshops, in partnership with dive shops, teach divers to spear and remove lionfish. Interested in hosting a Become the Predator workshop and lionfish excursion? Contact Lionfish@MyFWC.com.

    To feature lionfish brochures Adobe PDF in your shop, send your mailing address and how many brochures you want to Lionfish@MyFWC.com.

    2017 Derby Calendar

    Email the event date, location and address, event name, event website, and event contact information to Lionfish@MyFWC.com to get it featured on the calendar.

    Date

    Location

    Name

    Contact

    2/11

    Key Largo

    REEF Winter Lionfish Derby

    Emily Stokes Emily@REEF.org

    4/20-5/20

    Jacksonville

    Northeast Florida Lionfish Blast

    Donny Trauthwein lionfishblaster@gmail.com

    4/22

    Miami

    4earth Lionfish Derby

    Analisa Duran, Miami Seaquarium education@msq.cc

    5/20-21

    Pensacola

    Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Tournament

    Andy Ross, Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition sharkman58@gmail.com

    5/20-21

    Sebastian

    Sebastian Lionfish Fest (LRAD)

    Kendra Cope kcope@ircgov.com

    5/20-21

    Destin

    Destin Lionfish Tournament (LRAD)

    Robert Provost support@discoverydiveworld.com

    6/2-3

    Jupiter

    7th Annual Lionfish Round-Up 

    info@mclionfish.com

    6/24

    Miami

    7th Annual Lionfish Bash

    Lucy Foerster lucy@woodyfoundation.org


    Other events where you can learn about lionfish:

    2/20 Loggerhead Marinelife Center Invasive Species Awareness, Juno Beach
    4/22-23 The Blue Wild Ocean Adventure Expo, Ft. Lauderdale
    4/22 FSU Marine Lab Open House, St. Teresa
    Upcoming "Become the Predator" workshops:

    Learn about lionfish, their invasion, and how to safely target and remove them from Florida waters.

    1/27 6pm CT Dive Pros, Pensacola
    4/28 6pm CT Discovery Dive World, Destin

  • 02/01/2017 9:56 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Subject: truth about sector separation is finally revealed, you do not want IFQs or inter sector trading in the for hire industry

    As more and more word comes from the recent joint ad hoc aps meeting in New Orleans on 1-9 & 10, we are learning the “rest of the story” on the edf/cfa push for sector separation.  The headboat and charter for hire red snapper ad hoc aps met in a joint meeting on 1-9 & 10.  While each sector has its own ad hoc ap to suggest management for its sector, apparently there is a large number of headboats out of the 67 + - that does not meet the criteria to receive any red snapper quota and now those headboat owners want to join the charter for-hire sector.  After much discussion among the 2 sectors near the end of the meeting on the 10th there was a heavy push by the edf/cfa group to combine amendments 41 and 42.  The edf/cfa crowd showed their real colors on sector separation by pushing the ability to trade (inter sector trading) quotas among and between both sectors and eventually with the commercial IFQ owners. 

    The big reason for all this is that the numbers produced by the nmfs on the amount of red snapper, now they want to add red and gag grouper, greater amberjack, and triggerfish to the mix, each boat will receive is nowhere near what the edf/cfa group has told folks and expected under an IFQ program in the charter for-hire and headboat sector.  Imagine that as some of us have been doing the math for over 6 years and apparently true math doesn’t change.  2+2 is still 4 and 100 divided by 10 is still 10.  

    As some of us have discussed over the years, the only way for a small number of charter for-hire and headboats can obtain enough red snapper to have a decent quota and allowing them to fish an adequate number of days is to lease or purchase quota from others meaning a few will be harvesting red snapper and other species while many will not.  Much like the current commercial red snapper IFQ program where 55 people own almost 80% of the total quota, under a for-hire IFQ program where inter sector trading is allowed there will ultimately be a small number of for-hire owners who will own the majority of recreational quota. 

    As some may have heard over the past day or so the U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld the U.S. District Court opinion regarding sector separation in favor of the NMFS.  This means that sec sep will remain in effect unless there is Congressional action under the Trump Administration to eliminate the rule that extends the sunset for another 5 years implemented on Jan 3.  There is a little known act, Congressional Review Act, that has been in effect for many years plus new legislation recently passed by the House, Regulatory Review Act, that only becomes law if the Senate also approves it that could eliminate the rule meaning sec sep would end.  Under these acts any rule or regulation, passed by Congress or approved by any fed agency, that becomes effective within 60 days prior to the new administration begins could be eliminated.  The possibility of either act eliminating the sec sep rule is slim but could happen. 

    So assuming the Congressional Acts do not impact the rule then sec sep is here to stay.  There is a big push by the edf/cfa group to have the council approve IFQs and inter sector trading so a few can be big winners while the majority become the losers.  The next Council meeting is in New Orleans the week of 1-30 thru 2-2 with public testimony on Wed 2-1.  The meeting is at the Astor Crown Plaza on the edge of the French Quarter at 739 Canal Street.  The public testimony begins at 2:30.  Other ways to comment, not nearly as effective, are by email to gulfcouncil@gulfcouncil.org.  If you do not care if the for-hire fishery ends up in the hands of a few then don’t do anything.  If you are concerned about your future in the for-hire fishery then I strongly suggest you get involved NOW.  Your future and your ability to continue in your for-hire business is at stake. 

    Feel free to share this with anyone you know, especially in the for-hire fishery. 

    BZ2 

    Capt. Bob Zales, II 

    www.fishpc.com

    PH 850-763-7249

    Fax 850-763-3558 

    "Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom."  Thomas Jefferson

  • 12/16/2016 8:34 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)


    For-hire pilot project underway; measures approved for mutton snapper; 
    scoping options for red snapper 
     

    Federally permitted charter vessels in the snapper grouper, dolphin wahoo, and coastal migratory pelagic (mackerel and cobia) fisheries along the Atlantic Coast will have the opportunity to electronically report their fishing activities, including landings and discards, beginning in mid-2017. Mandatory reporting for the federally permitted charter vessels will begin in 2018. That's the intent of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council after it approved measures to implement the reporting program during its meeting this week in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. If approved by the Secretary of Commerce, the reporting requirements proposed in the For-Hire Electronic Reporting Amendment are expected to improve the accuracy and timeliness of data available for management and stock assessments, allow better monitoring of landings and discards, and allow managers to more accurately assess the impacts of regulations on the for-hire industry in federal waters.

    Currently for-hire charter vessels, commonly referred to as "6-pack" vessels for the number of customers they are allowed to carry, are considered part of the recreational fishery for data collection purposes and there are no logbook reporting requirements. Getting a handle on the amount of fish harvested and sometimes even more importantly, the number of fish released by offshore recreational fishermen is a daunting task. Estimates are made using data collected through a combination of dockside intercepts, telephone surveys and most recently, mail surveys - all conducted through NOAA Fisheries' Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). Data from federally permitted charter vessels are currently included as part of the MRIP along with data estimates for private recreational anglers.

    The new reporting requirements are expected to affect approximately 2,000 charter vessels with Federal For-Hire Permits. Federally permitted headboats or "party boats" that carry more than six customers are currently required to submit weekly electronic reports through the Southeast Region Headboat Survey. The For-Hire Reporting Amendment would also change reporting deadlines for headboats to improve timeliness of reporting.

    "We realize that implementing a reporting program affecting nearly 2,000 charter vessels will take time," said Mel Bell, Chair of the Council's Data Collection Committee and representative for the SC Department of Natural Resources' Marine Resources Division. "Having a voluntary program in place for next year will provide an opportunity for NOAA Fisheries to address any reporting system issues and allow charter captains the chance to become familiar with the reporting system," explained Bell. "We intend to keep reporting as simple as possible by providing a platform that will allow captains to complete electronic reports while offshore or at home on their computers and avoiding duplicative reporting requirements."

    The Council received an update on a pilot electronic reporting project currently being conducted in partnership with the Atlantic Coast Cooperative Statistics Program and the States of SC, GA, and FL. A total of 24 charter vessels from North Carolina to the Florida Keys are participating, using onboard tablets to test software and ease of reporting. The project also involves testing a dockside validation mobile app, an electronic measuring board, and a mobile app for law enforcement. The Council is pursuing additional program funding for outreach and training relative to implementation of the for-hire reporting requirement.

    After reviewing public comment and much discussion, the Council requested that staff develop a white paper to begin outlining information on limited entry options for federal for-hire permits in the snapper grouper fishery. The Council's Snapper Grouper Committee will continue discussions during its 2017 meetings. The Council decided not to pursue limited entry for Dolphin Wahoo and Coastal Migratory Pelagic for-hire permits at this time.


    Mutton Snapper, Red Snapper, and Other Actions  

    The Council approved Snapper Grouper Amendment 41 for review by the Secretary of Commerce. The amendment addresses management measures for mutton snapper and includes regulations to designate April through June as spawning months, retain mutton snapper in the 10-snapper aggregate bag limit and set the mutton snapper bag limit at 5 per person per day year round, specify a commercial trip limit during the spawning months of 5 per person per day with a trip limit of 500 pounds during the "regular season" (non-spawning season months), and increase the minimum size limit for mutton snapper from 16 inches to 18 inches total length. 

    Discussions continued on options for the red snapper fishery. The fishery remains closed in federal waters. Additional management measures or modifications to current management measures are needed to reduce the large number of dead discards contributing to the stock's overfishing status as the stock continues to rebuild. The Council will solicit public input during a series of in-person scoping meetings scheduled for January and February 2017.

    Public hearings will be held in conjunction with the January/February scoping meetings on allocation measures for yellowtail snapper. The Council had initially included both yellowtail snapper and dolphin in a joint amendment to address allocations after the commercial fishery was closed for both species in 2015. The Council will continue to address allocation measures for dolphin during its March 2017 meeting. In addition, the Council approved Visioning Amendments for public scoping with measures for both commercial and recreational snapper grouper fisheries as a part of the Council Vision Blueprint for the Snapper Grouper Fishery. Scoping for the Visioning Amendments will be held via webinar. Schedules for the public hearings and scoping meetings will be publicized as they are finalized.

    The Council decided not to move forward with a proposed change to the fishing year for Atlantic cobia, noting the efforts of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to develop a complementary management plan to allow additional flexibility for state management considerations. The fishing year change may be addressed at a later date if necessary. The ASMFC is currently soliciting public input on proposed measures.

    The next Council meeting is scheduled for March 6-10, 2017 at the Westin Jekyll Island, Jekyll Island, Georgia. Final committee reports and other materials from this week's meeting are available from the Council's website.  Read further details and see images and other related meeting links by viewing the December 2016 Council Meeting Round-up Story Map.

    The December 2016 Meeting Report is also available from the website.


  • 11/03/2016 12:39 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    A Time for Thanks
    by Captain Charlie Phillips

    November is a month that revolves around several big dates, Election Day (which can’t get here and be gone soon enough) Veterans Day and of course Thanksgiving. In the spirit of the last one, I wanted to strike a different tone for this months From the Crow’s Nest piece and give thanks.             

    I am first and foremost thankful to live in the greatest nation this world has ever known. During my time in the service, I had countless opportunities to travel abroad to different lands, seeing new cultures and meeting new folks. While I did see some beautiful and amazing sights, and encountered some wonderful people along the way, there is no place like home.

    Growing up in rural Silk Hope, North Carolina, my folks gave me a 22 rifle, a fishing pole, a four wheeler and the freedom to roam the dirt roads, terrorizing the squirrels and fishing every pond that was in our zip code. I was given the ability to learn life’s lessons in a wonderful community full of hard working Americans who were the definition of the quote, “It takes a village to raise a child.” To me this time was the groundwork of where I learned what hard work, work ethic and community meant. It’s the gold standard for me still today and I am so very thankful for this foundation as I get older and a bit wiser. 

    I am thankful that I had the opportunity to serve our great nation, to be in the company of heroes, and to learn what selfless service, discipline, and warrior spirit really mean. I am thankful I was able to return home when my time was done, with the freedom to live where I chose, worship how I felt best, and work in the field I wanted. These freedoms are so many times taken for granted as they are so basic to us in this country, but we should never forget there are millions in this world that will never have an inkling of what we have today.

    I am thankful for meeting my wife Laura, who helped, encouraged and pushed me to fulfill my dreams of obtaining my USCG Masters license and opening our own charter fishing business down in the Everglades National Park. I started my business off in the crème de la crème of the fishing world, living in Everglades City in the heart of the Everglades, knowing now the passion and mystique that so many others feel when they think of the Everglades and 10,000 islands I realize how sacred a place this is and am thankful to call it home. I am grateful to have a good fishery that still challenges me each day. Great customers who are loyal to our business and feel much more like fishing with a friend than with clients and a community that embraces the importance of guides, fishing and tourism.

    I am thankful to the founders of the FGA who over 25 years ago had the vision to see the importance of joining voices and coming together for a greater good. Ensuring the resources we all love and cherish are available long after we are gone. I am thankful for Captain Pat Kelly welcoming me into the Florida Guides Association in 2008 when I first come to work a show booth. He and Mrs. Pat have worked tirelessly the past 20 years to ensure the FGA stayed viable and relevant so that we, the next generation of leaders can steer the ship into the future and continue the legacy of the best professional guide and captains group there has ever been. I am thankful that he, and the other leaders, had the faith and belief  to invite me to step into a leadership position when I first was honored to join the board.

    I am thankful to all of you that support the mission of the Florida Guides Association. Our captain and guide members each are here for their own reason, but your membership provides the opportunity for the FGA to represent not only our industry, but also our recreational friends, neighbors and customers as well.

    I am thankful of your faith in your leadership to represent you, and your patience as we grow the FGA into the future. In the past few years we have come from 80 guide members to over 200, a wonderful achievement that’s totally due to your faith, loyalty and belief in the mission of the FGA. We still have miles to go though, as we all know, that 200 guides is barely scratching the surface of those who carry the title Capt. in the Sunshine State. With your help, I hope one day see that number soar well over the one thousand member mark.

    I am thankful for the current leadership and active members of the FGA who selflessly volunteer their time to attend meetings, work shows, help teach kids and take the time to spread the word of who the Florida Guides Association is and what we do. You are the best commercial the FGA could ever have, and the fact that you give your time freely shows that what we are doing here is worthwhile. 

    I am thankful to have had and have the pleasure of steering this great ship we call the FGA. It’s an honor I do not take lightly and lose sleep wondering if I am doing all I can to serve our members, protect our resources and ensure our ability to enjoy the fisheries we all love continues into the future. 

    I am thankful for those of you that take the time to read this editorial each month, and even more for those that send feedback, positive or negative as it helps me get the pulse of who you are, and what you find important. Every month as I search for inspiration on what to write, its knowing so many out there see the importance in what the FGA is doing that inspire the idea to write the next sentence. You, are the backbone, the heart and soul of the Florida Guides Association and for that we are all so very thankful.

    And finally, I am thankful, and always a little amazed, that we get to take people fishing for a living. We pay our bills, keep the lights on taking strangers in search of a fish each day. If that’s not something you can be thankful for, then I don’t know what to say!! 

    I wish you all a wonderful month. Remember to thank a veteran on the 11th and save some turkey for me on Thanksgiving. Hope to see you on the water.

    Capt. Charlie Phillips


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