Snook and black bears are among the highlights of the upcoming Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Palm Beach Gardens.
Commissioners are expected to decide whether to re-open the recreational harvest of snook in the Gulf, Keys, and Everglades National Park on Sept. 1. The west coast fishery has been closed by executive order since a cold kill in early 2010 to allow it to recover, while the east coast fishery has remained open for regular harvest seasons. An updated stock assessment conducted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute recommends allowing the Gulf coast harvest to resume on Sept. 1 and maintaining current bag and size limit and seasonal closures.
The commission will decide whether to adopt the state’s first management plan for the black bear, whose numbers have risen from the low hundreds in the 1970s to more than 3,000 today. If the plan is approved, then Florida’s largest land mammal could be removed from the state’s list of threatened species. However, killing, harassing or injuring a black bear would be illegal.
Other agenda items: an update on the effectiveness of the no-take zone established five years ago in Dry Tortugas National Park waters and the continued closure of zone 4 of the Stairsteps unit of the Big Cypress Wildlife Management Area to deer hunting for the 2012-13 season.
The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. both days at the PGA National Resort. For more information, go to myFWC.com and click on commission meetings.
• The recreational harvest of gag grouper will reopen in state and federal Gulf waters July 1 through Oct. 31. However, the rule does not apply in the Keys because Monroe County waters already re-opened for gag grouper harvest under South Atlantic rules from May 1 through Dec. 31.
Brazilians win regatta
The world champion Brazilian team of Bruno Bethlem de Amorim and Daniel Seixas Claro won the 2012 Snipe National Regatta that concluded Friday on Biscayne Bay. The Brazilians scored 11 points in the seven-race series, topping the runner-up South Florida team of Ernesto Rodriguez and Cate Gundlach by six points (17). South Florida teams took third through fifth places in the five-day event: Augie Diaz and Justine O’Conner finished third with 18 points, followed by Brian Kamilar and Enrique Quintero in fourth (21) and Nick Voss and Michael Popp in fifth (38). A fleet of 46 boats competed out of Miami’s Coral Reef Yacht Club.
Mohawk going under
The retired U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mohawk — formerly a floating museum in Miami-Dade and later Key West — is slated to become Florida’s newest artificial reef on July 2 off Sanibel Island. Reefmakers founder Joe Weatherby, who sank the U.S.S. Vandenberg off Key West three years ago, and Mike Campbell, who heads Lee Reefs, are spearheading the project to deploy the 165-foot World War II cutter 90 feet deep about 28 nautical miles west of Redfish Pass. The sunken ship is expected to attract a variety of marine life as well as numerous scuba divers. As a bonus, former Philadelphia 76ers owner Pat Croce, who collects pirate artifacts, will stash some of his authentic treasures, plus a case of Pyrat Rum, aboard the wreck for divers to find and keep.