By Captain Lawrence Piper
Needless to say, I was a bit surprised when I saw the final FWC Commission’s (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) decision to change the Redfish rules to one fish per angler in the NE Florida Region. For months FWC staff have been reporting and promoting and disseminating that their recommendation for NE Florida would be to keep the two fish per angler, but change the boat limit down to four, from eight. Also slated to change was to remove Captains from counting in the “take”.
I’ve had no issue with these proposed changes and, truth be told, I have no issue with even a one fish per angler and dropping the boat limit down to four, and removing the captains as counting. In past comments I’ve stated just that. What I do have a problem with is that FWC Staff studied this over the last couple of years, began taking input a year ago, kicking off with a day-long Redfish Summit down in Ocala, hosted numerous regional workshops, and then made their recommendations to the Commissioners based on the data and science and that year long input. When the final decision was made at the Commission meeting in Jacksonville in July, after a number of passionate testimonies from anglers at the final meeting, four of the commissioners (the other three were absent), threw all of that year long effort out the window and while they were at it, threw the FWC Staff under the bus.
Has anyone in the last two years not heard the term, “Trust the Science”? I don’t know how many researchers and scientists and data crunchers that the FWC employ but I have to assume that they all put their heads together studying the data. Then we all went thru what turned out to be a charade of the Redfish Summit, then a multitude of regional presentations and workshops, and on-line request for input from we “Stakeholders”. They had a full year of input from those stakeholders across the region. And finally, FWC Staff settled on and published the recommendations that they were going to present to the Commissioners. At the July Commission meeting FWC Staff made these recommendations for NE Florida:
- Keep the bag limit of 2 fish per angler
- Reduce the off-the-water transport limit from 6 to 4 fish per person
- Prohibit Captain and crew from retaining a bag limit of redfish when on a for-hire trip
All good right?
Nope, this is where it got hinky.
FWC Staff made the above recommendation. Then the Commission took more public input (you can click here and see the entire meeting, but if you go to 1:11:56 you can see where the presentation is made with following public comment that begins around 1:24:45)
There were 21 speakers on the subject, most advocating to drop that bag limit from 2 to 1 in the NE Region. Some were very passionate in their speeches and evidently convincing enough to sway the commissioners. If you get a chance, listen to the speeches. Even though one advocate made his case and stresses that “these are the facts”, when it comes to the regulations, shouldn’t we be making decisions based on the data and the research? There were a couple of tournament anglers who were having trouble catching Redfish in their tournament. Did they just have a bad day? One speaker mentioned making the 1-fish rule across the board so it would be easier for law enforcement. Why then the multiple Regions? Another suggested it was “sick” to kill ANY Redfish. Another mentioned “listen to Stakeholders”. I guess he meant only the ones at that July meeting – not the hundreds who provided input during the year-long charade.
Shortly after the Commissioners took public comment, the Commissioner representing NE Florida, Sonya Rood proposed an amendment to change the FWC recommendation and move the bag limit down to 1 fish person. I’d give a shaky thumbs up to Chairman Rodney Barreto for at least mentioning that FWC Staff had made recommendations……but…but…ok…..let’s vote on it with Ms. Rood’s amendment and BAM! FWC Staff recommendation thrown out the window (and it slowly rolled under the bus).
- 1 fish per angler
- 4 fish per boat
- 4 fish while in transient
- Captains don’t count in the “take”
The FWC supposedly plans to take data, do research and study the Redfish population over the coming year and annually make their recommendations. There was some talk about including other species – Seatrout, Flounder and Snook in the new studies.
My questions are these:
- If the FWC Staff wants our input, and we give it, does it really matter?
- Are Commissioners going to “follow the science” and staff recommendations or be swayed by passionate speakers at the final meeting?
- If FWC Staff publishes their findings and recommendations and present them right up to that final meeting, do you ever trust the Commissioners to follow those recommendations?
- Do you not have to be present at that final meeting for it to actually count?
- Can you trust them?
REWARD: To the first person who watches the entire FWC July Meeting video, I’ll pay .25 per time anyone mentions or says the word “Stakeholder(s)”!
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal Florida.
The original article can be found at https://theanglersmark.blogspot.com/2022/08/fwc-staff-thrown-under-bus.html
Captain Lawrence Piper is a charter fishing Captain in Fernandina Beach. His charter opportunities, writings, fishing reports, and more can be found at https://theanglersmark.blogspot.com/.