To the Editor:
On June 12, in the morning of their meeting in Lakeland, the members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will take their final vote on the proposed regulations to make tarpon and bonefish catch and release in the state of Florida. Although that seems like a no-brainer to many, a positive outcome on this vote is far from certain. Even if you voiced your support for these regulations during the draft phase, we are asking you to once again make your support of the proposed regulations known.
Your support is critically important. In recent days we have received an overwhelming number of supportive comments, please direct your support and comments to the commissioners.
Complete the email form at myfwc.com/ contact/fwc-staff/senior-staff/ contact-commissioners/, or call the staff of the commission at (850) 488-4676, or contact them by mail: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 620 S. Meridian St., Tallahassee FL 32399-1600.
If you reside in or will be in Florida on June 12 and are able to attend the commission meeting to provide comments in person, please do so and show your support. The catch and release vote is the second item on the agenda on June 12.
The basics of the proposed rules for tarpon are:
• The intent is to manage tarpon as a catch-and-release-only fishery with allowable harvest and possession limited to possession in pursuit of an IGFA record.• At present, there are no regulations on tarpon in federal waters. The proposed rules would extend Florida regulations to apply in federal waters off the Florida coast.• Tarpon harvest tags will be limited so that they can only be used to harvest or possess tarpon in pursuit of an IGFA record. • The total number of tarpon harvest tags that an angler can obtain in one year will be limited to one• Professional fishing guides will be able to obtain more than one tarpon harvest tag per year• Tarpon can be targeted with hook and line gear only• Tarpon can be temporarily possessed for photography, measurement of length and girth, scientific sampling, and released at the site of capture• Tarpon less than 40 inches fork length can be briefly removed from the water for photography, measurement, scientific sampling• Tarpon greater than 40 inches fork length must remain completely in the water
• Tarpon and bonefish are important components of a saltwater recreational fishery in Florida that has an economic impact exceeding $6 billion annually • A recent international scientific review ranked tarpon as vulnerable due to significant regional population declines (due in part to commercial harvest in Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil) and fishing pressure and research has shown that we all share a regional tarpon population• Tarpon are long-lived (up to 80 years) and late to become sexually mature (they mature at 8 to 12 years of age), they are especially vulnerable and recovery of the population is on the time scale of decades• The continued loss of juvenile habitat will delay recovery• Given the amount of fishing effort for tarpon, we must take the responsible approach to conservation for the long term• The bonefish population in the Florida Keys has declined significantly for reasons as yet unknown• Although not well documented, there has been harvest of bonefish by fishermen in South Florida• Most, if not all, bonefish tournaments have moved or are moving to an all-release format, meaning that retention of bonefish for weigh-in is no longer necessary
Please take the time to attend or contact the commissioners and let them know how you feel. This issue is too important to assume that someone else is speaking up on your behalf.
Tight lines,Bonefish & Tarpon TrustKey LargoView More images >>
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