• The Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative, formed about a decade ago to try to protect reefs in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties from further harm, is in the final stages of forming community working groups to come up with even more ideas for reducing threats to the important ecosystem. The working groups, made of anglers, divers, conservationists, local, state and federal officials, scientists and business owners, will be tasked with making recommendations to put to public hearings in 2015. Recommendations might range from no action to implementing marine reserves, which would be presented to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for consideration. SEFCRI successfully pushed for the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2009, which assesses penalties against boaters who anchor or run aground on coral reefs. Currently, two species found in local waters, elkhorn and staghorn, are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. However, both are being considered for listing as endangered, along with boulder, boulder star, mountainous star, pillar and rough cactus corals. The SEFCRI team will meet all day Wednesday and Thursday at Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center in Dania Beach. Sessions are open to the public.
• National Marine Fisheries Service is seeking public comment on a controversial proposal to open the commercial shark fishing season in Atlantic federal waters on Jan. 1, 2014, instead of in midsummer. The new rule is opposed by shark conservationists who fear fishermen will target a winter aggregation of lemon sharks off Jupiter, where numbers have been declining over the past decade. Lemon sharks are protected from commercial harvest in state waters less than three miles from shore, but are open for harvest further out under a federal commercial quota system. No public hearings have been scheduled so far and the comment period expires Monday. Comment at http://www.regulations.gov for NOAA-NMFS-2013-0112.
Meanwhile, the federal fisheries agency is seeking public comment on a proposed rule amendment for the snapper-grouper fishery in the South Atlantic. Amendment 27 would allow captains and crews of charter and party boats to keep bag limit quantities of all snapper/grouper species if they possess federal charter/headboat snapper-grouper permits. Previously, crews were not allowed to take those species while on a for-hire trip. Comments will be accepted through Nov. 18 at www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0085.
• The International Game Fish Association has announced five honorees — including two well-known South Florida captains — in the fourth annual Legendary Captains and Crews Awards Ceremony slated Feb. 15, 2014 in Dania Beach. The ceremony celebrates captains and mates who have made extraordinary contributions to sportfishing. They include captain Bouncer Smith of Miami Beach, a 40-plus-year veteran in the light-tackle guide business who donates numerous trips to charity each year; captain Gary Ellis of Islamorada, founder of the Redbone Celebrity series of tournaments; captain Mike Benitez, a pioneering marlin fisherman in Puerto Rico; captain Bill Hatch, a New Jersey native who developed the bait-and-switch tactic for capturing sailfish in the Keys; and captain Dennis “Braazaka” Wallace of Australia, a renowned fishing and hunting guide. Captain Skip Smith and IGFA Hall of Fame member Mark Sosin will serve as co-hosts of the event. For ticket information, go to igfa.org.
• Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have added four more license-free fishing days to introduce more Floridians to freshwater and saltwater angling. On Oct. 12 and Nov. 30, anglers in any saltwater body in the state do not need to have a fishing license. In freshwater, the free days are Nov. 29 and Dec. 28. Additional days will be implemented in 2014.
• The Islamorada team of captain Bou Bosso and angler Paul Nute won grand champion honors in the Islamorada Invitational Fall Fly Bonefish Tournament, which concluded this month. The team also won the event in 2010. A total of 15 teams competed in the three-day tournament.
• Harolf Dean of Miami won top individual honors in the Pan American Spearfishing Championship held this month in Miami. Fellow U.S. team member Alex Bristol placed seventh and Sergey Lopez was ninth. Venezuela won top team honors, while Team USA led by Tony Miranda of Miami was runner-up. A total of 28 spearfishers competed in the CMAS-sanctioned event.