The agenda focused on boating issues, including proposed legislation on statutes related to vessels and vessel registration. Commissioners directed staff to proceed with proposing new regulations concerning anchoring, mooring and local governments’ jurisdiction for the Florida Legislature to consider. Also, Commissioners adopted new rules regarding boating restrictions in Martin and Okeechobee counties, based on a vessel traffic study and requests for revisions from stakeholders and governmental bodies.

Commissioners revoked a final order that permitted the City of Naples to post waterway markers in the Naples Bay area. The FWC granted the permit in March 2007, but an appeals court overturned the decision, requiring the Commission to execute a new final order denying it.

In addition, Commissioners heard staff reports on high water and wildlife issues in the Everglades and reviewed proposed rules to improve Florida’s quota hunt program for sportsmen who will use the state’s wildlife management area system during the 2009-10 hunting seasons. Commissioners directed staff to proceed with the new rules, which will come up for final approval at the February meeting in Destin.

In addition, Commissioners heard an update on a general management plan for the Big Cypress National Preserve Addition and a summary on the recent summit, “Florida’s Wildlife: On the front line of climate change.”

Also during Wednesday’s session, Commissioners voted to proceed with a land swap proposal by the Saddle Creek Corp., City of Lakeland and the state Board of Trustees concerning the FWC-managed Tenoroc Fish Management Area. The proposal involves swapping an FWC-managed 10-acre tract to go to Saddle Creek Corp. in exchange for 40 acres adjacent to state-owned land.

FWC Commissioners selected Rodney Barreto as chairman and Kathy Barco as vice chairman for 2009.

A final public vote on proposed rule amendments for gag and red grouper in Gulf of Mexico state waters was on Thursday’s agenda. Commissioners approved rules to reduce the recreational bag limit for Gulf gag grouper from five fish to two fish daily per person and prohibit the recreational harvest of Gulf gag grouper from Feb. 1 through March 31. This is consistent with gag grouper regulations in Gulf federal waters. The Commission also voted to increase the recreational bag limit for Gulf red grouper from one fish to two fish daily per person.

Other new rule amendments approved by the Commission include increasing the recreational minimum size limit for greater amberjack from 28 to 30 inches fork length and increasing the commercial and recreational minimum size limit for gray triggerfish from 12 to 14 inches fork length in Gulf state waters. These rules are consistent with current regulations in Gulf federal waters.

The new Gulf gag and red grouper, greater amberjack and gray triggerfish rules take effect on Jan. 1.

In other marine fisheries action, the Commission proposed a draft rule amendment that would make the recreational Gulf red snapper fishing season in state waters consistent with federal regulations. The proposed red snapper open season in Gulf state waters would be from June 1 through Sept. 30, if adopted by the Commission at their meeting in February.

Another draft rule amendment proposed by the FWC would end the moratorium on the reduction of lobster trap certificates and provide that the number of trap certificates be reduced by 10 percent to a purchaser only when they are sold or transferred to someone outside the immediate family of the certificate holder.

The Commission also proposed a series of draft rule amendments for the marine life (aquarium species) fishery. The proposed rules would add new fish and invertebrate species to marine life regulations, establish or change size and bag limits and gear specifications for several marine life species, and make other administrative and technical marine life rule changes.

In addition, the FWC proposed a draft rule that would establish six regional closed seasons around the state to the harvest of blue crabs with traps. These closures would extend for up to 10 days each to help identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps from Florida waters.

Final public hearings on the proposed red snapper, lobster, marine life and blue crab rules will be held in February.

The full agenda is available online at www.MyFWC.com/commission/2008/Dec08/index.htm.

The next FWC meeting will be Feb. 4-5 in Destin.

Till next time tight lines and good fishing….

From Staff and Wire Reports

BassOnline.com

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