Monday, November 23, 2009

Florida Wildlife Commission Meeting In Clewiston

Hendry County - Site Of December FWC Meeting

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will meet in Clewiston Dec. 9 and 10 to vote on and discuss numerous inland and marine issues. The Wednesday and Thursday sessions at the John Boy Auditorium, 1200 South W.C. Owen Ave., will begin at 8:30 a.m. both days and are open to the public.

The Dec. 9 meeting focuses on inland issues. The Commission will consider the final rule that would allow use of peregrine falcons for falconry in Florida, consistent with the rules and regulations of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Commissioners will discuss draft rules that would change deer hunting seasons and zone boundaries. The purpose of these changes is to align season dates with the rut (a time of peak white-tailed deer activity), and thus increase hunter satisfaction.

Commissioners also will consider draft rule proposals pertaining to hunting on about 150 wildlife management areas, wildlife and environmental areas, mitigation parks and miscellaneous areas.

The first day�s full agenda also includes a discussion of a draft rule change for taking or removing nuisance wildlife, adding the possibility of allowing off-site relocation under specific conditions, rather than euthanizing the wildlife, and requiring trap and snare inspection at least once every 24 hours.

Other proposed rules would require a permit to import nonnative wildlife on the conditional list, including the Northern largemouth bass. Another proposed rule would prohibit importation of quagga mussels.

Commissioners will consider draft rules revising Florida�s listed-species process. The proposed changes would create one Florida list for imperiled species that includes any species listed at the federal level as well as Florida-designated listed species. The new draft rules concentrate on sound management strategies to ensure no species goes extinct in Florida. 

Commissioners will hear a request to continue consideration of changes to manatee zones in Sarasota County and discuss potential changes to the permits available to commercial fishers and professional fishing guides for higher speed operation in some manatee zones statewide. Land acquisition and management issues will also be discussed. Commissioners will wrap up the first day with election of a new chairman and vice chairman for 2010. 

Presentations during the second day of the meeting include a report on options for future action for reptiles of concern, including the Burmese python. Also on Dec. 10, the Commission will hold a final public hearing on proposed federal consistency rules to address overfishing of grouper in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida.  These rules would decrease the aggregate daily recreational bag limit for all grouper in Atlantic and Monroe County state waters from five fish to three fish per person, prohibit the captain and crew of for-hire vessels from retaining any species in the aggregate grouper bag limit, and decrease the aggregate recreational bag limit for gag and black grouper from two fish combined to one fish in Atlantic and Monroe County state waters.

The proposed federal consistency rules also would prohibit all recreational and commercial harvest of shallow-water groupers (including gag, black grouper, red grouper, scamp, red hind, rock hind, coney, graysby, yellowfin grouper, yellowmouth grouper and tiger grouper) from Jan. 1 through April 30 in Atlantic and Monroe County state waters. 

In addition, a final public hearing will take place on a proposed federal consistency rule that would require dehooking tools to be aboard commercial and recreational vessels and used as needed when fishing for reef fish in Atlantic state waters. 

Another final public hearing will take place on proposed new rules that would be compatible with an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission management plan for Atlantic coastal sharks and enhance current FWC protective measures for sharks that inhabit Florida waters. These rules would prohibit harvest of sandbar, silky and Caribbean sharpnose sharks from state waters; establish a 54-inch fork-length minimum size limit for all sharks, except Atlantic sharpnose, blacknose, bonnethead, finetooth and blacktip sharks and smooth dogfish; prohibit removal of shark heads and tails at sea; allow only hook and line gear to harvest sharks; and make other technical shark rule changes.

A final public hearing will also revolve around proposed rule amendments that would automatically allow use of new designs of bycatch reduction and turtle exclusion devices in shrimp trawls in state waters when new designs are certified for use in adjacent federal waters; restrict the use of the Florida fisheye to inshore and nearshore Florida waters, where trawls are limited to 500 square feet; and delete a provision that allows use of the extended funnel in state waters.  Technical changes to turtle-excluder device rules are also proposed.

In other marine fisheries action, the Commission will receive reports on permit and bonefish management issues; consider draft rules that would prohibit harvest of lemon sharks from Florida waters and extend the expiration date of the moratorium on new spiny lobster commercial dive permits from July 1, 2010, until July 1, 2015; review and discuss various federal fishery management issues; and receive reports on goliath grouper and the Marine Recreational Information Program.

Before adjourning the two-day session, Commissioners will also examine draft rules updating boating-restricted areas along the Florida Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway portion in Palm Beach County.

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