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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved several conservation measures that are consistent with federal rules and set a new state management boundary for hogfish at the November meeting in St. Petersburg.
“Hogfish is an economically important species that is popular with the diving and angling community,” said Chairman Brian Yablonski. “This was not an easy decision, but will help balance the species’ needs while still offering opportunities for anglers.”
Hogfish is overfished and undergoing overfishing in the Florida Keys and east Florida. Federal law requires the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to end overfishing immediately and implement a 10-year rebuilding plan.
Because most hogfish off the Keys and east Florida are taken in Florida state waters, consistency with similar regulations pending approval in Atlantic federal waters is necessary to rebuild the stock.
The effective date for the state waters changes has not been determined but once confirmed, a date will be posted on MyFWC.com and will be sent out via an additional press release.
The new state management boundary between the Keys/east Florida and Gulf stocks will be at 25 degrees 9 minutes north latitude (a line due west of Cape Sable, which is on the Gulf side of Florida). Once effective, hogfish north of Cape Sable will be managed as Gulf hogfish, and hogfish south of that line, around the tip of Florida and up the Atlantic coast, will be managed as Atlantic hogfish. Prior to this change, the boundary for hogfish was a line following U.S. Highway 1 in the Florida Keys. This new management boundary line is closer to where Gulf and Atlantic hogfish stocks naturally separate as determined by a recent genetic study.
Other approved conservation changes include:
• Lowering the Atlantic recreational daily bag limit from five to one fish per harvester.
• Setting an Atlantic recreational harvest season of May 1 through Oct. 31.
• Increasing the Atlantic recreational and commercial minimum size limit from 12 to 16 inches fork length.
• Increasing the Gulf recreational and commercial minimum size limit from 12 to 14 inches fork length.
• Setting the minimum importation and sale size limit to 14 inches fork length statewide.
The size limit increase and recreational season will allow Atlantic hogfish more opportunities to spawn before entering the fishery and, along with a bag limit change, will help rebuild the Keys/east Florida hogfish population to sustainable levels.
The size limit change for Gulf state waters is also consistent with pending regulations for federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf stock is healthy, but stakeholders requested an increase in the minimum size limit as a conservation measure to give hogfish additional spawning opportunities.
Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Hogfish” for more.
BARRACUDA SLOT LIMIT SET FOR SOUTH FLORIDA
At its November meeting in St. Petersburg, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) set new barracuda size limits.
These changes will apply in state and federal waters off Collier, Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties only and include:
• Creating a recreational and commercial slot limit of 15 to 36 inches fork length.
• Allowing the harvest of one fish larger than 36 inches per person or vessel per day, whichever is less.
“I’m grateful to south Florida stakeholders for bringing this item forward and to staff’s efforts in gathering public input on this important Florida species so that these reasonable management actions could be taken today,” said Commissioner Robert Spottswood.
In recent years, stakeholders in southeast Florida and the Florida Keys who fish and dive have voiced concerns about seeing declines in barracuda numbers.
Barracuda data is limited due to their complex life history and behaviors; however, there has been a declining trend in the number of barracuda observed during underwater surveys conducted in the Keys in recent years, as well as a declining trend in the average size of those barracuda.
A slot limit will contribute to barracuda conservation by eliminating harvest pressure on the youngest, most vulnerable fish while also conserving larger fish, which are responsible for the vast majority of reproduction.
The FWC also addressed concerns for this species in 2015 when they set recreational and commercial bag limits for barracuda in south Florida.
Staff will continue to monitor barracuda through data collected during FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute underwater surveys, and ongoing recreational and commercial catch data collection.
Recreational anglers can report their catches using data-reporting programs like the Snook and Gamefish Foundation’s iAngler app and Angler Action website.
For more information on these changes, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and select “Commission Meetings” then click on the link below “Next Meeting.”
For information on barracuda, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Barracuda.”
GULF TRIGGERFISH TO REMAIN CLOSED THROUGH 2017
The gray triggerfish recreational season will remain closed Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2017, in Gulf state waters in response to an announcement that the 2016 federal gray triggerfish quota was exceeded and that federal waters will be closed through Dec. 31, 2017.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved this change at the Nov. 17 meeting in St. Petersburg. However, the Commission will consider a potential limited gray triggerfish season for fall 2017 at an upcoming meeting in an effort to provide fishing opportunities to Gulf anglers.
“There is a lot of value we can gain by giving our stakeholders the opportunity to talk to us and our staff about what they are seeing on the water,” said Commissioner Chuck Roberts. “By revisiting the discussion about a limited season in 2017, we can use both stakeholder input and updated data to make an informed decision.”
Gray triggerfish is overfished. When the federal gray triggerfish quota is exceeded, federal rules require the excess harvest to be deducted from the quota used to set the following year’s season. The state waters closure will help avoid a quota overage in 2017.
To learn more about gray triggerfish, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Triggerfish.”