Recreational anglers in South Florida and around the state got some welcome news earlier this week from the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee.
The justices upheld Florida’s 20-year-old, constitutional restrictions on net fishing in state waters. They reversed last year’s ruling by Leon Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford who agreed with the Wakulla Commercial Fishermen’s Association — joined by the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association — that the measures were “fundamentally unfair.”
Commercial fishers have been fighting the netting rules ever since more than 70 percent of Florida voters approved them in a 1994 referendum. The fishermen argued that the state rule limiting mesh sizes to two inches forced them to gill juvenile mullet, thereby harming the resource. But the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission presented testimony to the higher court showing that the mullet population is on the rise as a result of the rules. The court agreed and noted that the issue has long been settled by previous court rulings and that Fulford’s decision was “erroneous.”
CCA Florida, one of the groups that has supported the net ban from the beginning, lauded the court’s ruling and added, “We would like to thank the FWC for their efforts in ensuring that gill nets stay out of Florida waters.”