Marine Fisheries Rule Cleanup

Rule cleanup book and meeting gavelThe Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is updating and clarifying several existing rules related to marine fisheries as well as creating a new General chapter in an effort to make them easier to read, understand and enforce.

The Commission directed staff to update and clarify these rules in response to several comments from the public and agency staff. Many of these rules have not been amended for years and include outdated references, redundant terms or archaic language.

FWC staff from the divisions of Law Enforcement and Marine Fisheries Management, as well as legal staff, are working together on this project.

Management update

Phase 1 of this process was approved at the June 2013 meeting in Lakeland.

Future phases of the revisions will include standardizing the remaining chapters in 68B; conducting a review of the FWC’s local laws, which are specific to counties or regions, to determine which ones are still needed; and conducting a comprehensive review of Florida Statutes to determine which statutes need to be transferred to FWC rule or recommended for repeal.

Changes that went into effect Sept. 1, 2013, include:

  • “General” chapter created to house definitions and regulations that will be applied to all marine fisheries. Currently, individual chapters contain repetitive definitions or rule language, which can be cumbersome and confusing to the reader, especially when worded differently. The creation and use of this new chapter will reduce confusion and enhance compliance by ensuring there is consistency among wording and meaning, and by eliminating repetition. All regulations for the new chapter have been taken from existing species rules, and are therefore not new regulations. However, moving them to the new chapter will mean they apply to all marine fisheries, which could change how some rules are enforced for certain species.
  • Relocate gear descriptions to the Gear Definitions rule.
  • Define "For Commercial Purposes" as two times the recreational bag limit
  • Expand "Harvest" definition to include the unnecessary harm or destruction of marine organisms.
  • Expand "Purchase and Sell" definition to include that possession is not required for a transaction to be considered purchase or sale.
  • All finfish and invertebrates not retained must be immediately returned to the water unharmed (this rule currently applies to food fish).
  • Anglers may temporarily possess a species for measurement and photography purposes unless there is a limitation in that species' individual rule (does not apply to prohibited species).
  • No recreational and commercial harvest of a species on the same trip (this rule currently applies to reef fish) Example: A properly licensed commercial harvester could not catch both a commercial and recreational bag limit of king mackerel in the same day, but they could catch a recreational bag limit of king mackerel and a commercial limit of Spanish mackerel.
  • No traps in marked navigational channels
  • Prohibit possession, sale or purchase of illegally caught organisms
  • Standardizing the format and rule language for 19 species including:
    Bay Scallops, Billfish and Swordfish, Black Drum, Calico Scallops, Cobia, Dolphin and Wahoo, Flounder and Sheepshead, Hard Clams, Jellyfish, Queen Conch, Sardines, Seatrout, Shad and River Herring, Snook, Sponges, Sturgeon, SW Florida Shells, Tripletail and Weakfish
  • Relocating the regulations for swordfish, wahoo and sheepshead to new rule chapters of their own, separate from chapters dealing with other species.
  • Clarify when appropriate fishing licenses are required
  • Clear up language errors in the cobia rule and the restricted species endorsement rule

Three rule changes that were originally included in this proposal were removed and will be discussed at a later date. Changes that will not be implemented at this time include standardization of the red drum rule, expansion of the definition “Florida waters” to include any potential fishing site and the adjacent parking area, and the moving of a rule that specifies vessel operators are responsible for fishery rule violations.


FWC Facts:
Healthy lakes with vibrant fisheries enhance property values & development potential and justify the need for sustainable development practices to protect them into the future.

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