Florida Commission Meets, Extends Alligator Daylight Hunting Hours
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wrapped up its two-day meeting Thursday in St. Augustine, in which it accepted staff recommendations on state-threatened species; discussed marine fisheries issues of concern to anglers, commercial fishermen and specimen collectors; approved hunting issues for deer and alligators; and dealt with other wildlife-related issues.
On Wednesday Commissioners elected Kathy Barco of Jacksonville to serve as Chairwoman and Kenneth Wright of Winter Park as Vice Chairman. Their terms are for one year. Outgoing Chairman Rodney Barreto served six one-year terms as Chairman.
"I am honored to be elected to serve in this role and grateful to my predecessor for his example to us all," Barco said.
Commissioners on Wednesday approved staff's listing recommendations for 61 species following a presentation on Biological Status Reviews for species currently listed by the state as threatened or species of special concern. Twenty-seven members of the public provided a variety of comments on the listing issue. Forty species will remain listed as threatened, 16 species will be removed from the list, and five species will remain as species of special concern.
A change in status of the species will not occur until management plans are brought back to the Commission for approval.
Also on Wednesday, Commissioners approved revisions to the permitting guidelines for gopher tortoises to ensure the keystone species thrives in Florida. The revisions reduce monitoring requirements for landowners who receive gopher tortoises on their property and modify the conservation permit to include an on-site relocation option for certain public projects. The revisions are part of the FWC's adaptive management strategy to ensure the most effective gopher tortoise conservation in balance with the needs of Floridians.
FWC staff and Commissioners discussed the anchoring and mooring pilot program on Wednesday; Commissioners selected the city of Stuart, in partnership with Martin County, as a program site. FWC staff will work with each of the sites involved in the program, including the cities of Sarasota, St. Petersburg and St. Augustine, and Monroe County, to develop ordinances pertaining to anchoring and mooring in each jurisdiction.
Also on Wednesday, Commissioners:
- Adopted a rule change that adds approximately four hours of daylight hunting per day to the state's recreational alligator hunting season. The change will be in effect for this year's season: Aug. 15 - Nov. 1.
- Directed staff to continue evaluating a proposed manatee protection zone in Flagler County.
- Approved an executive order implementing new deer harvest rules in two areas of the Big Cypress Wildlife Management Area in South Florida, in an effort to allow the deer population to rebound. The rules will affect the upcoming 2011-2012 hunting season.
- Recognized St. Augustine sculptor Capt. Pierre Pierce for his contributions to fish and wildlife conservation through his highly acclaimed artwork.
On Thursday, the Commission approved rule amendments for permit, Florida pompano and African pompano that expand their protection to offshore federal waters beyond Florida state waters, where the fish currently aren't protected, and created separate conservation-management strategies for these species.
Some of the key changes for permit include creating a special South Florida Permit Management Zone that includes a three-month closed season, and adjusting size and bag limits. The new rules also modify certain Florida and African pompano rules. These rule amendments are expected to take effect Aug. 31.
In addition, Commissioners approved rules that extend the FWC's stone crab management to offshore federal waters beyond Florida state waters. These rule amendments are expected to take effect Aug. 31.
The Commission also approved a rule amendment that will make the recreational harvest season for red snapper in Gulf of Mexico state waters consistent with this year's open season in Gulf federal waters. This open harvest season will occur from June 1 through July 18 this year.
Commissioners also directed staff to develop possible rule modifications that would extend state requirements governing the harvest of marine life (aquarium species) into federal waters adjacent to state waters, and to create a commercial quota for octocorals and adopt areas in federal waters currently closed to their harvest. Commissioners also heard a report on the impact of the 2010 snook cold-weather kill and decided to reopen the harvest of snook on the Atlantic coast on Sept. 1; however, they decided the Gulf snook fishery should remain catch-and-release only until Aug. 31, 2012, to give the stock additional time to recuperate. The Commission also received updates on various federal fisheries management issues.
Also on Thursday, FWC staff briefed Commissioners on the status of the contract for the new Recreational License Issuance Services, set to replace the current Total Licensing System in October 2012. After reviewing proposals and negotiating with several companies, the FWC ultimately awarded the contract to Brandt Information Services of Tallahassee.
Regarding freshwater fisheries, Commissioners recognized the University of Florida bass-fishing team and approved a Black Bass Management Plan after hearing a report on the final proposed version.
The next Commission meeting will be Sept. 7-9 in Naples.