IV. PEOPLE MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
As described above, human dimensions inquiries will be critical to the effective implementation of a black bass management plan. Plan developers identified the following topics to be considered: communication, education, ethics, outreach, marketing, social marketing, partnerships, tournament management and promotion, user conflicts, trophy bass documentation, data monitoring, imperiled species, and law enforcement. To that end, a communications plan ( Appendix III) is presented and nine specific action items are described below.
- Implement a trophy fish documentation and release program.
FWC recognizes the importance of managing for trophy largemouth bass. Currently, FWC has very little information available to quantify the catch of trophy bass in Florida. Gathering information about trophy-sized fish is especially difficult due to their rarity in fish populations, and their use of deep water habitats that may preclude collection via conventional sampling with electrofishing gear (Bayley and Austin 2002). We propose to initiate a fishery dependent trophy-fish documentation program to quantify trophy fish catches. TrophyCatch is a conservation-minded program that documents catches of trophy fish and promotes catch-and-release. It also is geared to educate anglers about the importance of trophy fish to fish populations in Florida lakes. Data collected on the catch occurrence of trophy fish is critical for fisheries managers to identify trends in abundance and identify critical factors that contribute to the production of trophy-sized fish and to marketing efforts to promote Florida fisheries. This program will help document and promote the social, economic, and ecological value of these trophy fish. The Big Catch angler recognition program includes a trophy-pin for bass over 10-pounds, but is not adequately advertised, funded, or documented to achieve the desired results.
- Involve stakeholders early in the process of major, resource-specific management actions such as new regulations and major habitat renovations.
State fish and wildlife agencies across the country have learned that management of resources is more successful if stakeholders are involved in the process from the beginning. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways from online surveys to traditional public meetings. Public meetings (either open or by invitation) involving stakeholders, researchers, and managers at the beginning of the process have great potential to help build stakeholder relationships, and ensure the FWC is managing a resource for stakeholder preferences by using the best available science. Individual resources should be identified and addressed prior to stakeholder involvement whenever possible. New information needs may be suggested during stakeholder meetings.
- Design and implement a complete marketing plan for the BBMP and Florida's bass fishing.
Marketing of Florida's bass fishing and the BBMP is integral to success of the plan. See Appendix III (Marketing and Communications Plan). Greater refinement of economic impact of freshwater fishing on local economies, including indirect benefits, is needed to accurately promote fishing to traditional and non-traditional stakeholders.
- Build partnerships with bass anglers, other stakeholders, government agencies, institutions, and private industry to complete fishing and lake improvement projects.
FWC has accomplished more fishing and lake improvement projects by partnering with other groups, because they have combined resources and worked as a team, than when operating independently. Economic shortfalls at all levels of government have reduced resources, which makes it even more important to develop strong partnerships with other groups to achieve FWC's goals. Other agencies and organizations might provide staff, funds, in-kind services, and/or lakefront property for fishing access.
- Cooperate with the bass tournament industry and citizens to effectively manage bass tournaments to minimize negative perceptions.
The BBMP public survey indicated that many people are concerned with potential tournament impacts such as bass mortality, crowding at boat ramps and poor boating and angling ethics by some tournament anglers. This survey indicated that other anglers believe tournaments are good for bass fishing by promoting fishing, organizing anglers, and teaching ethics (catch-and-release specifically) and stewardship. (Visit the following link for a more detailed discussion about this controversial topic: Pros/Cons)
Bass tournaments are very popular and generate a large amount of revenue for the fishing industry, the state of Florida, and local economies. Despite most tournaments being catch-and-release events, mortality occurs as a result of stress from catching, handling, and hauling of bass. Wilde (1998) summarized 25 years of studies of bass tournaments and indicated that tournament-association mortality averaged 28.3 percent during the 1990s when he estimated all sources of mortality. Tournament mortality increases with water temperature and can be very high during summer water temperatures (Schramm et al. 2006). Displacement of bass is another concern, especially when bass are transported from one water body to another during the course of a tournament (Wilde 2003).
Currently, any group of anglers may conduct a bass tournament without a permit or other interaction with FWC, unless they want a Tournament Exemption Permit. This permit exempts the tournament anglers from size limits during the course of the tournament, as long as permit requirements are met. These permit requirements pertain to the handling and releasing of fish, and reporting of tournament results. This includes the requirement that all fish (even those which could be otherwise legally harvested) must be released, or if any bass perish, they must be donated to charity or research. FWC biologists will work with stakeholders to develop a direction for managing bass tournaments. Potential options to manage tournaments include: enforcement, regulation, education/outreach, research, and infrastructure.
- Educate anglers and other stakeholders about where and why bass are stocked by meeting with stakeholder groups, recognizing stocked lakes with news releases and signs at boat ramps, and capitalizing on other promotional opportunities as they arise.
Stocking fish is not the solution to all fisheries problems, as many stakeholders believe. Educating stakeholders will help dispel this myth and help them understand when stocking is a useful tool. Promoting stockings will help with stakeholder education and promote the positive fisheries work done by FWC. Reference BBMP Communications Plan (Appendix III) to determine the best way to communicate with stakeholders.
- Promote conservation of endemic black bass.
The diversity of black bass species (genus Micropterus) in Florida is second only to Georgia. Of nine described species of black bass, three are endemic to Florida: largemouth bass (including the Florida and Northern subspecies and an intergrade or hybrid version), shoal bass, and Suwannee bass. The north and northwestern portions of Florida are also home to the introduced northern spotted bass. Recent investigations indicate that a newly described provisional species of coastal spotted bass (Micropterus sp. cf. punctulatus) may also exist in streams in the Florida panhandle (Bagley et al. 2010; Tringali et al. 2010).
While populations of some species of black bass in Florida are robust, others are in need of conservation due to their extremely limited geographic range, their fragmented populations or threats to their genetic integrity resulting from hybridization with non-native species (Dakin et al. 2007; Koppelman and Garrett 2002; Tringali et al. 2010). But one of the greatest conservation threats to all these species is environmental degradation of the watersheds and rivers where they exist (National Fish and Wildlife Foundation 2010).
People are often surprised to find out that these unique black bass species exist in Florida; this is simply because they were unaware that there are more than one species of bass in Florida. There is an urgent need to build stakeholder support for the conservation of these endemic black bass species through education and outreach efforts targeting both anglers and non-anglers. Further, there is a need to educate stakeholders about each species' biology, life history, habitat requirements, distribution, status and threats to the viability of their populations. The stakeholder support gained through these educational efforts will in turn build partnerships for the conservation needs of these unique bass species. It is imperative to discourage anglers to not move fish around due to negative impacts on these endemic species, particularly hybridization with non-native northern spotted bass.
Studies suggest that endemic species of black bass are not currently at risk to overharvest by recreational anglers. Promoting fishing opportunities to catch these unique species of sport fish can build stakeholder support; while promoting their conservation needs at the same time. Catch-and-release should be promoted and practiced when informing anglers where and how to fish for these endemic species.
It is recommended that magazine articles, brochures, posters, websites, news releases and fishing shows be utilized not only to promote fishing opportunities but also build support and partnerships for the conservation of these unique species of black bass.
- Create, maintain and utilize a comprehensive list of freshwater fishing clubs and other anglers willing to volunteer within each region.
This list will serve as the foundation for developing volunteer participation in fisheries management, whether it is workdays to accomplish discrete habitat manipulations, constructing approved fish attractors, angler diary programs to document catch rates, or sampling for biological data collection. Use of volunteers and time spent managing their activities will be documented via the new agency volunteer coordinator and FWC`s newly revitalized volunteer program. Providing stakeholders with the opportunity to participate in management gives them ownership in the resource, provides them with satisfaction, helps the BBMP meet its goals, and leverages agency resources. Alabama has instituted a program where clubs help install fish attractors. B.A.S.S. has a comprehensive list of current members in Florida willing to participate in volunteer days, and other anglers provided contact information during the BBMP stating that they want to help. FWC should also attempt to increase volunteerism with bass angler groups to work on projects that directly affect their fishing success, such as fish attractor installation. For example, currently more than 1,000 B.A.S.S. members in Florida are on a volunteer list to work on fishing improvement projects.
- Promote Florida as a national angling destination for B.A.S.S. Slam opportunities.
As a program of another organization, FWC's role will be secondary to that of B.A.S.S. in the promotion of this program. Florida provides the greatest opportunity to catch multiple species highlighted by B.A.S.S. in the B.A.S.S. Slam, including the Florida largemouth bass that is only found in the Florida peninsula. There are locations in north Florida where five of the eight species of the B.A.S.S. Slam could be caught within short drives of a central lodging point or on a 'B.A.S.S. Slam Tour'. Information packets could be compiled and disseminated that provide information about lodging, access points, usable equipment (i.e., kayak vs. bass boat), species specific angling techniques, and peak angling seasons.
Identify angler friendly lodging facilities in areas that provide unique angling opportunities in relation to the B.A.S.S. Slam. Additional genetics work regarding spotted bass, shoal bass, and Alabama bass are needed to determine which species occur where in Florida. However, B.A.S.S. does not differentiate between spotted bass and Alabama bass in the B.A.S.S. Slam.