CCA Florida has requested the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to amend their proposed Gulf grouper rule to make the season closures and daily limits for red and gag grouper the same for both recreational and commercial fishers in state waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The Commission will take action on the proposed grouper rule at their April 15-16 meeting in Tallahassee, FL.
Recreational fishers are now subject to a February through March spawning season closure and a four fish aggregate grouper bag limit the rest of the year.
"We supported new recreational regulations to conserve and restore Gulf grouper stocks," said Ted Forsgren, CCA Florida Executive Director. "However, if the Commission does not modify its proposed rule, commercial fishers will be able to come into state waters during the time recreational fishing is closed and take 6,000 pounds of grouper per trip, and they can do it during the peak of the spawning season!" said Ted Forsgren. "Recreational fishers will be justifiably angry when they discover the unfair and inequitable treatment."
The FWC is proposing the rule changes in order to achieve concurrency with major regulatory changes in federal waters off of Florida. However, Forsgren states that, "The Commission does not have to adopt the same unfair treatment that the federal fisheries managers have enacted. The Commission can, and should, make the spawning season closures and limits in Gulf state waters, the same for all fishers."
According to CCA Florida, there are numerous reasons and justification for equal regulations in state waters.
-The CCA Florida amendments do not change the overall allocation or total catch limits of either sector but they do impact the location where the catch is taken.
-Equal bag limits and closures will tend to move commercial fishers to offshore federal waters. The majority of commercial take already occurs there. Such action would provide a better recreational fishery in state waters.
-The Commission has already set the precedent for equal regulations for all fishers for Gulf red snapper in state waters.
-The change will have minor to no economic impact on the commercial fishery because the majority of current take is in federal waters.
-A new economic study (Gentner, 2009) found that the Gulf recreational grouper fishery yields significantly higher economic impact and jobs than the commercial fishery. The total economic value of the recreational fishery is 228 million dollars as compared to the commercial value of 96 million dollars.
-Since ninety five percent of the Gulf grouper fishery occurs off of Florida's west coast it has a huge impact on Florida's economy. The much greater economic value to Florida's economy indicates that the recreational fishery deserves special attention and protection.
"The Gulf grouper recreational fishery has a huge positive impact on Florida's economy.
The Commission should not impose the federal inequitable regulations in state waters," said Forsgren. "The same season closures and bag/trip limits for all fishers would be a good step towards insuring a minimally viable recreational grouper fishery in state waters."