2013 Gulf gag grouper recreational season draft rule discussed
Thursday, December 06, 2012
Media contact: Amanda Nalley, 850-410-4943
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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) unanimously decided Wednesday, Dec. 5, on a draft 2013 Gulf of Mexico gag grouper recreational season. After discussing several options and hearing public testimony from 26 people, Commissioners at their meeting in Apalachicola chose draft options that, if approved in February, will make most Gulf state waters consistent with the current federal season, with the exception of a four-county region.
The current proposed federal season for Gulf gag grouper is slated to start July 1 and end when the annual catch target (the number of fish that can be harvested for that year within the rebuilding plan) is expected to be met, which will likely be sometime in November or early December. The federal season ending date should be finalized in spring 2013.
The Commissioner’s proposal included an April 1 through June 30 season in state waters off the counties of Taylor, Jefferson, Wakulla and Franklin. According to the proposal, the four-county region will not open during the July 1 through November/December federal season. Monroe County is excluded from the Gulf of Mexico season because it is included in the Atlantic season for gag grouper.
“Similar to our reasons for making this change last season, moving the 2013 season to April through June for this four-county region is anticipated to have an insignificant impact to the resource but a significant impact to the local economy and the culture,” said Commissioner Brian Yablonski. “This at least gives the Big Bend area a chance to fish. Without this exception, the Big Bend is in essence left out because the fish are offshore during the federally proposed season.”
The Commission asked staff to work with federal fishery managers in gathering data on the effect this proposal may have on the length of the federal season and bring back this information to the February Commission meeting.
“The important thing is it looks like we are going in a positive direction for next year,” said Commissioner Ron Bergeron about the proposed federal season, which potentially will be lengthened in 2013.
Other options considered by the Commission included full consistency with the federal season in all state waters, split seasons that would open in spring and winter, and regional seasons.
The 2012 recreational gag grouper season was July 1 through Oct. 31 in all federal and most state waters with the exception of state waters off Taylor, Jefferson, Wakulla and Franklin counties, which were open April 1 through June 30 instead.
Public comment on this draft rule can be sent to Marine@MyFWC.com or can be given by calling 850-487-0554.