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Net pilot program under inspection
By TERRY TOMALIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 7, 2000
A three-year pilot program that allowed a small group of commercial fishermen on the Panhandle to use huge purse seines to catch baitfish will expire on June 30.
But the seven license-holders are pressing for an extension.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission opposes any extension of the program that was designed to help the transition into other activities after the 1994 constitutional amendment banning inshore netting.
Nets larger than 500 square feet were prohibited under the net ban, but that did not stop the Legislature from approving the pilot program in 1997. The tarp seines in question consist of legal 500 square-foot net material, with up to 600 yards of tarpaulin material sewed into the sides that allows fishermen to encircle more than 7 acres of baitfish.
The experimental program allowed license-holders in Wakulla, Franklin, Gulf, Bay, Okaloosa and Walton counties to use tarp seines. These nets cost about $30,000 and are deployed by large vessels with the help of smaller boats and/or divers.
David Meehan, an FWC member from St. Petersburg, wrote Senate president Toni Jennings urging the Legislature not to extend the pilot program.
"The nets allowed only in the six counties are otherwise prohibited by statute and by commission rule, and constitute a fairness issue for us," Meehan wrote. "Our counsel believes the gear to be prohibited by the 1994 net limitation amendment."
The FWC will not discuss the issue when it meets this month in Pensacola. But other issues, including a rule that would increase the recreational bag limit for Spanish mackerel from 10 to 15 fish a day and increase the maximum size limit for red drum (redfish) from 27 to 30 inches, will be on the agenda.
Commissioners also will receive reports and public comment on gulf grouper, gill-netting of pompano, aquaculture of snook, the status of bay scallops and mercury in marine fishes.
For information call the FWC at (850) 487-0554.
INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENT: The International Game Fish Association will sponsor an inshore tournament series that will hold its championship next spring in the Keys. More than 8,000 anglers have registered for 37 qualifying tournaments in six countries and seven states.
Anglers who fish the Miller's Marina Tarpon Tide Tournament, July 6-7 in Boca Grande, can qualify for the spring 2001 Keys championship. For information, contact Lynn Wolber at (941) 964-2232.
ABANDONED BOATS: Many of the small mangrove islands in Tampa Bay are littered with derelict boats and Tampa BayWatch is looking for volunteers to help identify and remove these decaying vessels.
Many boat owners, rather than spend the time and money to repair an old boat, take it out into the bay and dump it. Many of these vessels are old commercial fishing boats.
If you see a derelict boat, contact the Florida Marine Patrol at (813) 272-2516.
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