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April 16, 2014

FWC Program Promises Improved Gulf Reef Fish Data

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) moves forward with creation of a Gulf Reef Fish Data Reporting System.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission moved forward with a proposal to create a Gulf Reef Fish Data Reporting System that would improve recreational reef fish data collection in Florida Gulf waters.

The new process will determine the number of anglers targeting reef fish in the Gulf, then survey a sample of those anglers to obtain accurate catch and effort data for reef fish trips.

In June, this proposal will be brought back before the Commission for a final public hearing.

If the proposal is approved, recreational anglers fishing from a boat in Gulf state waters (excluding Monroe County), including those 65 and older, will be required to participate in order to possess red and vermilion snapper; gag, black and red grouper; gray triggerfish; greater and lesser amberjack; banded rudderfish; and almaco jack.

Anglers, captain and crew aboard for-hire vessels will be exempt from the data-collection system because they have their own survey. Anglers under 16 years of age and those fishing under a vessel recreational fishing license will also be exempt.

This would be a no-cost program to the state, with funding provided by a five-year National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Gulf restoration grant. The Commission directed staff to include language for a five-year sunset clause. The program will be evaluated and reconsidered, when the grant funding expires.

If the Gulf Reef Fish Data Reporting System reaches an approval at the FWC’s June meeting, data reporting will be required by April 1, 2015. Anglers will be able to enroll starting May 2014 and encouraged to sign up when they renew their fishing licenses.