Georgia DNR to Host Public Information Meetings on Proposed Title 27 Reform

   01.05.12

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The Georgia Department of Natural Resources/Coastal Resources Division (CRD) will host two public information meetings on proposed legislative changes to the way saltwater fishing is regulated. The meetings are scheduled for January 18th at the John W. Stevens Wetlands Education Center in Richmond Hill and January 19th at the Southeast Georgia Conference Center on the campus of the College of Coastal Georgia. Both meetings will begin at 6 PM. Public input gathered at the meetings will be provided to the Georgia General Assembly for their use as they consider new legislation.

Currently, Georgia law, through O.C.G.A. Title 27, divides authority for regulating saltwater fishing among the Georgia General Assembly, the Board of Natural Resources, and the Commissioner of Natural Resources. For some species, the General Assembly has retained sole authority for management while, in the case of other species, two or all three of the groups share responsibility. This division of authority among three entities often makes it difficult for the Department to implement science-based management measures in a timely and effective manner. This is particularly problematic when the State of Georgia needs to implement such measures in support of interstate and/or federal fishery management or in response to an environmental emergency such as an abnormally cold winter.

With input from the 18-person Marine Fisheries Advisory Council, CRD staff have prepared a list of specific actions to be included in proposed legislation. “The most important part of this proposal is to give the Board of Natural Resources the ability to manage saltwater fishing like they manage freshwater fishing and hunting,” says Spud Woodward, CRD Director. “The Board meets ten times a year and is able to make routine changes based on current biological conditions and public input. Most importantly, the Board is required by law to consider public comment before making any decision so fishermen will always have an opportunity to weigh in on proposed changes.”

Under the proposed legislation authority for routine management actions for several species of saltwater fish, blue crabs, horseshoe crabs, jellyfish, and bait shrimp would move to the Board of Natural Resources. The Commissioner of Natural Resources would be given limited authority for short-term management actions when necessary for conservation purposes. The Georgia General Assembly will retain authority over licensing and associated fees, penalties, commercial food shrimp fishing, and commercial shellfish fishing. The bill also includes a proposal to create a no-cost Saltwater Information Program requirement to improve recreational fishing data. No current fishing regulations for saltwater fish, shrimp, or crabs will be changed by this proposed legislation.

For more information contact: Doug Haymans (912) 264.7218 email: [email protected]

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