Many from Boca Grande came to address the commissioners, and the board also said they received many letters from children, asking them to preserve the local tarpon estuary through adoption of the new regulations.
Commissioner Ken Wright made the motion for adoption, citing reasons more important than economics.
“Protection of the resource outweighs the economic consequences,” he said. “This rule is not intended to change human behavior, it is to protect a fish that lives to be 80-years-old. They deserve respect for being prehistoric and having a life span that, many times, exceeds ours.”
And with that he made a motion to move the draft rule up for final adoption.
Commissioner Ron Bergeron seconded the motion.
“I’m not the type to set here and act like Ronald Reagan, I’m not into a lot of regulations and telling people what gear they can use,” he said, “but as time has gone on and we’ve gotten more information on this jig with the weight on the bottom, and all the comments I’ve read, I think it’s extremely important we protect the resource. When you look at all information we’ve been able to review, it’s most likely this jig is snagging. When you snag a fish, the time it takes to get the fish in, the additional stress ... now you’re affecting the mortality of the resource. Also, I think the economy in the long run will be much better by protecting the resource.”
Commissioner Brian Yablonski agreed.
“How we hunt and how we fish – it matters,” he said. “We don’t shoot ducks on the water, we don’t jacklight, there’s no snagging from bridges. There is an ethical fair chase concern embedded in this.”After the meeting supporters and representatives from groups such as Save The Tarpon and Bonefish & Tarpon Trust gathered outside commission chambers.
Capt. Phil O’Bannon, an island fishing guide and executive director of Boca Grande’s Mote Marine Laboratory office, was present ... and he was happy.
“It was a pretty short discussion,” he said. “Everything had already been said regarding the issue. There were about three people who spoke who weren’t in favor of the change and about 20 that were. I was very impressed with the commission; they did a great job and I commend them. It took a lot of work to see all the facts. I think it should have a huge economic impact and on our fishery in a positive way. All the commissioners who had any doubt before looked at the studies, which said they (bottom-weighted jigs) are most likely and probably snagging devices. They decided to rule on the side of the resource, and this is a great victory for our community and for groups like Save The Tarpon. And, most importantly, the fishery.”
Rick Hirsch, a representative for Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, said this vote is significant in drawing to a close a chapter in history.
“Some enforcement issues may remain, but it appears the commission has evolved to an understanding that this technique is damaging the entire state’s tarpon fishery,” he said. “We need some time to digest this, but I know there are a lot of smiling faces here.”
Capt. Tom McLaughlin, chairman of Save The Tarpon, was also at the meeting and addressed commissioners. After the meeting he said, “I think it was appropriate, hopefully it starts to have a positive impact,” he said. “We’re going to move foward from here to make sure the Boca Grande fishery continues on and to make sure that we continue to be called the sportfishing capital of the world.”View More images >>
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