Outdoors

Florida Supreme Court keeps ban of gill nets intact

Good news last week for mullet, the bigger fish that eat them, and the recreational fishers who catch them both: the Florida Supreme Court upheld netting restrictions adopted by constitutional amendment in 1994.

Florida’s high court rejected a petition by the Wakulla Fishermen’s Association to overturn an appeals court ruling affirming a ban on gill nets in state waters. In 2013, the commercial fishers’ group convinced a Leon circuit judge to strike down netting rules on grounds they are unfair. That ruling allowed a brief period of gill netting for mullet until the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission won an injunction to keep the ban in place while the issue made its way through the courts.

The recreational fishing group CCA Florida reacted happily to the Supreme Court ruling.

“The constitutional amendment that has protected Florida’s marine fisheries for more than 20 years is safe and intact once again,” CCA Florida chairman Bill Camp said in a statement. Florida’s bait fish populations and inshore fisheries have shown dramatic improvement since the netting rules took effect in 1995.

ELSEWHERE

▪ Now here’s a novel approach to furthering shark research and conservation. Nova Southeastern University, the Guy Harvey Research Institute and Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation will host a “Great Shark Race” beginning in April and anyone can compete.

Businesses and individuals are invited to put up $5,000 to sponsor satellite tracking tags to be implanted in mako and oceanic whitetip sharks. The data from the tags help scientists learn about the sharks’ movements so that the species can be better managed.

Sponsors can follow their sharks’ progress online in near-real-time and whoever’s mako and whitetip travels the farthest in six months wins a free Keys fishing vacation. For more information, visit www.GreatSharkRace.com.

▪ The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, partnered with research centers and other agencies, is conducting the first-ever statewide “Non-native Fish Catch, Click and Submit” contest beginning Sunday and running through Feb. 28.

The free contest encourages anglers to fish in their favorite water bodies and photograph and report any exotics they catch. Prizes will be awarded. Florida is home to at least 34 species of reproductive, invasive fish that can harm native species. Participants need a Florida fishing license (unless they are exempt) and the deadline for submitting entries is March 1. For more information, visit FloridaInvasives.org and click on the contest under quick links.

▪ Defending champ Shockwave, skippered by George Sakellaris of Framingham, Massachusetts, won the 32nd Pineapple Cup — Montego Bay Race that concluded this month. Shockwave, a 72-foot Mini Maxi, completed the 811-nautical mile race from Port Everglades to Jamaica in two days, 11 hours, five minutes, three seconds. A fleet of 12 competed.

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