Marine Life and Tropical Ornamentals

Learn about commercial harvesting of marine life species.

Florida ReefFlorida's commercial marine life fishery is the nonlethal harvest of saltwater fish, invertebrates, and plants for commercial purposes. These organisms are harvested and maintained alive and then sold alive to wholesale and retail dealers and aquarium owners. In the United States, the collection of many of these organisms is limited to Florida and Hawaii.

The state of Florida collects data from wholesale dealers and commercial fishers to generate statistics on the types of species and quantities landed. The state has collected commercial fisheries landings and fishing effort data since November 1984. In 1988, the Florida Marine Life Association (FMLA) petitioned the Marine Fisheries Commission to adopt standards for the collection of tropical marine life species. As a result, harvest regulations were adopted, and the collection of marine life and tropical ornamental data began in 1990. The Fisheries-Dependent Monitoring (FDM) section at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) maintains marine life landings data that date back to 1994.

The figures below show commercial landings (numbers harvested) for some popular finfish and invertebrate species in Florida during 2009-2013. Please note that 2013 data are preliminary and not yet finalized. The years are depicted by different color bars.

Commercial Landings of Select Finfish 2009-2013

chart showing commercial invertebrate landings

Requirements to Collect Marine Life:
Commercial marine life collectors are required to possess a Saltwater Products License (SPL) with the Restricted Species (RS) and Marine Life (ML) endorsements. A Special Activity License (SAL) is required to use the quinaldine chemical to harvest marine life species. Park permits may also be required. Recreational collectors are required to possess a saltwater fishing license.

Regulation Information:
Specific commercial and recreational marine life regulations may be found in chapter 68B-42 of the Florida Administrative Code.

The Division of Marine Fisheries Management occasionally convenes Workgroups or Advisory Boards to gather public comment on complex marine fisheries issues for potential rulemaking. For more information about the Marine Life Advisory Board, please visit the Advisory Boards, Workgroups and Public Workshops section.

Only those who have a valid Aquaculture license (AQ) can harvest live rock. There are ten lease sites in Florida waters (off Monroe and Hillsborough counties). Prospective applicants should contact the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Aquaculture for more information.

Prohibited Species
All harvest of the following species is prohibited, unless it is pursuant to a research permit:

  • Live rock (except harvested by aquaculture)
  • Bahama or Cushion sea star (Oreaster reticulatus)
  • Longspine urchin (Diadema antillarum)
  • Any sea fan of the species Gorgonia flabellum or of the species Gorgonia ventalina
  • Any hard or stony coral (Order Scleractinia)
  • Any fire coral (Genus Millepora)

Please refer to Chapter 68B-42 of the Florida Administrative Code for more information.

FWC Facts:
An octopus can change its shape and color to blend in with its surroundings.

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