The Coastal Conservation Association of Florida has selected seven state legislators and Florida’s attorney general to receive Legislative Conservation Awards in recognition of their support for marine fisheries conservation issues during the 2005 Legislative session.
“We are very pleased to recognize these individuals,” said David Howton, CCA Florida Chairman. “They were instrumental in the efforts to stop legislation attempting to bring gill nets back to Florida waters.”
Those chosen to receive CCA Florida 2005 Legislative Conservation Awards are:
Senator Paula Dockery (R – Lakeland)
Senator Ken Pruitt (R – Port St. Lucie)Advertisement
Senator Mike Bennett (R – Bradenton)
Representative Andy Gardiner (R – Orlando)
Representative Marty Bowen (R – Winter Haven)Advertisement
Representative Donna Clarke (R – Sarasota)
Representative Jack Seiler (D – Pompano Beach)
Attorney General Charlie CristAdvertisement
Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist was chosen to receive a legislative conservation award because he entered the debate early in the session with letters to the sponsors of the gill net proposal indicating that the legislation was unconstitutional. Crist stated that “the proposed legislation would allow use of a gear that is expressly prohibited by Article X, Section 16, Florida Constitution.”
Just like several previous attempts to create loopholes for gill nets, SB 1178 and HB 741 sought to allow any mesh size in 500 square-foot nets, even those mesh sizes which are used for making gill nets. The collective efforts of these elected officials served to completely stop the legislation. The bill did not get out of any committee.
In 1994 an overwhelming 72% 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 ten 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.
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.
“Florida’s saltwater anglers and other conservationists should take the time to thank these elected officials for their efforts in stopping the latest attempt to weaken the constitutional ban on gill nets,” said Ted Forsgren, CCA Florida Executive Director.