Florida WC Kicks Off 2012 Commission Meetings in Havana



The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will meet Feb. 7-9 in Havana to discuss several fish-and-wildlife issues, starting with an afternoon workshop Tuesday, Feb. 7, on marine fisheries stock assessments. The Commission will not be taking action on specific regulatory issues that day.

The Feb. 7 workshop starts at 1 p.m.; regular sessions Feb. 8-9 start at 8:30 a.m. at the Florida Public Safety Institute Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy, 215 Academy Dr., Havana. All meetings are open to the public.

The stock assessment workshop will provide the Commissioners an opportunity to discuss and share ideas about state and federal marine fisheries stock assessment processes.

On Wednesday, Feb. 8, Commissioners are expected to take final action on king mackerel and Gulf of Mexico gag grouper management efforts. They will also look at three marine fisheries and two boating draft rules.

Federal fishery management groups are working on a gag grouper rebuilding plan in the Gulf of Mexico. New Gulf of Mexico gag grouper federal management efforts include setting the recreational season to July 1 through Oct. 31 and decreasing the commercial minimum size limit from 24 inches to 22 inches. Commissioners will decide whether to adopt similar changes in state waters at the meeting.

Commissioners will also take action on a proposed amendment that would allow commercial harvesters taking king mackerel in southwest Florida to land them in Collier County when waters off the county are closed to harvest.

A change in oyster management proposes a seven-day commercial oyster harvest week in Apalachicola Bay. If the Commission approves this, the change could be adopted without additional public hearings.

Another proposed modification would allow Tampa Bay commercial shrimp permit holders to transfer their permits to other commercial harvesters.

A third marine fisheries change, this one on roundscale spearfish, proposes amending state billfish management efforts to coincide with recent federal management changes. Proposed changes include removing roundscale spearfish from a list of prohibited billfish, adding it to the minimum size limit for white marlin and adding roundscale spearfish to the state’s billfish possession limit.

Division of Marine Fisheries Management staff will also present reports on federal fishery management actions and will review federal fishery management tools such as catch shares.

Regarding boating issues, FWC staff will present proposed amendments to enhance safety. The amendments would create slow-speed, minimum-wake zones in specific areas of Monroe and Volusia counties.

On Thursday, Feb. 9, the Commission will recognize FWC Officer of the Year Duane North, who works in Volusia County. North will also be honored by Shikar-Safari at the meeting.

After that, Commissioners will discuss the FWC’s plan to manage and conserve Florida black bears for future generations, now that the state’s bear population has increased from as few as  300 in the 1970s to an estimated 3,000 today. The draft Florida Black Bear Management Plan was released on Nov. 10, 2011, and is available online at MyFWC.com/Bear. Members of the public and stakeholder organizations have contributed more than 2,500 comments and suggestions on how to improve the draft bear management plan.

No final action on the draft, or proposed bear conservation measures, will be taken at this meeting. However, staff will seek approval to advertise a proposed draft rule that would prohibit the take of black bears unless authorized by Commission permit and direct staff to provide technical assistance to landowners and regulatory agencies in order to minimize or avoid negative impacts to bears. A separate proposed amendment would remove the black bear from the list of state-designated Threatened Species.

Anyone requiring special accommodations to participate in the meeting should advise the FWC at least five days prior to the Feb. 7 meeting by contacting the FWC’s Office of Human Resources at 850-488-6411. If you are hearing- or speech-impaired, contact the FWC using the Florida Relay Service at 800-955-8771 (TDD) or 800-955-8770 (voice).

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