Good news: The net ban is being enforced, at least for now. Learn more here.
By the mid 1980s, gill netting had nearly destroyed Florida’s inshore fisheries. Mullet and other forage species had been obliterated, with game fish also decimated. In addition, the predator fish that weren't netted were starving to death, as were fish-eating birds.
A ban on inshore netting brought back the bait, the birds, and the game fish. Today, Florida’s inshore fisheries are bountiful and, via sport fishing, provide a rich economic engine for the state’s coastal communities.
But now all of that is threatened, and your help is needed to save Florida’s inshore fisheries from once again being devastated by netting.
A judge in Leon County has ordered the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to stop enforcing the 18-year-old ban.
Florida Today says this:
In November 1994, 72 percent of the voters said “yes” to the gill net ban, which also limits nets to a maximum size of 500 square feet.
But after years of legal wrangling, Fulford ordered FWC to stop enforcing the ban. The same day, the Attorney General’s office filed a notice of appeal of (Judge Jackie) Fulford’s decision to the Florida First District Court of Appeal. That would automatically reinstate the ban until the matter could be resolved in court. But last week, Fulford granted a request by the plaintiffs’ attorneys that she lift the automatic stay of her order.
The plaintiffs are Wakulla Commercial Fisherman’s Association, Inc., and three individuals from the Panacea area, a longtime commercial fishing town south of Tallahassee.
Fulford said she thought it unlikely that stopping enforcement while legal action continues would cause “irreparable harm,” according to a report in the Tallahassee Democrat, or that FWC would prevail on appeal.
Sport fishermen who fought for the ban disagree.
“She’s created an absolute nightmare for the resource and a gold mine for the gill netters,” said Ted Forsgren, a spokesman for the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida, a group of 9,000 recreational anglers.
“What she has in fact done is open up gill nets in all state waters at the worst possible time,” Forsgren added. “Every day that goes by commercial fisherman are stocking up on spawning mullet.”