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May 27, 2008

CCA Florida: Act now to keep gill nets out of state waters

CCA Florida: Act now to keep gillnets out of state waters
By CCA

CCA FLORIDA GRASSROOTS NETWORK ALERT

Commercial netting interests try again to get 500 sq. ft. gill nets in Florida waters!

Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission has agended this issue for their June 12 meeting

CCA members, fishing clubs and other conservation interests need to e-mail the FWC now and attend the June 12 hearing.

Urge the commission to once again reject this attempt to blatantly circumvent the constitutional ban on gillnets
 

Background Information

In November of 1994 an overwhelming 72 percent of Florida voters said yes to the constitutional amendment limiting marine net fishing. The amendment includes both a prohibition on the use of gill and entangling nets in all state waters and a size limit on other nets. Although the restrictions have been in place for 14 years, there are still factions within the commercial industry who refuse to accept the legal reality that the constitutional prohibition on gill nets means no gill nets.

Since 1994, there have been numerous lawsuits, attempts to create law enforcement loopholes, and outright scams all designed to invalidate or circumvent provisions of the constitutional amendment. All have failed. The Florida Legislature, Florida Courts, and state agencies have upheld the clear intent of Florida voters.

One of the most common attempts to create loopholes for gill nets is to try to change laws to allow any mesh size in nets. When the ban on gill nets was implemented in 1995, fishermen started using nets with mesh sizes commonly used in gill nets prior to the amendment. They claimed the nets were seine nets, even though at the time of arrest, their nets were filled with gilled fish. To resolve enforcement and prosecution issues, the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) adopted a regulation to establish a distinction between legal seine nets and illegal gill nets. The regulation restricted seine nets to a mesh size no larger than two inches.
 
The regulation setting a maximum mesh size of two inches for seine nets was adopted to establish a "bright line" distinction between illegal gill nets and legal seines. A lawsuit was filed by commercial interests challenging the regulation. A Florida administrative law judge conducted the hearing, heard expert testimony from witnesses on both sides, and upheld the regulation. One of the major legal findings was that the two inch maximum mesh size for seine nets was "historically based, rational and practical." The commercial netting interests appealed the judges ruling to the First District Court of Appeal which unanimously upheld the judge's ruling and the MFC's rule. The ruling was then appealed to the Florida Supreme Court which denied the appeal and allowed the District Court of Appeal ruling to stand. In all, there have been four lawsuits by commercial interests challenging the mesh size and gill net rule and all have been rejected by the Courts.

 Article X, Section 16(1) of the Florida Constitution clearly states that:

"No gill or entangling nets shall be used in any Florida waters"

You can not pass a law or rule saying that nets with mesh sizes that are designed to gill fish are not gill nets. The constitutional prohibition on gill nets can not be changed by state rule or legislation.


Act now! Send your e-mail to: Commissioners@MyFWC.com


Attend the FWC public hearing

Time:  8:30 a.m.
Date: June 12, 2008
Place: International Game Fish Association Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum
300 Gulf Stream Way
Dania Beach, FL  33004


For more information, visit our CCA Florida website at www.ccaflorida.org