FWC to meet Feb. 13-14 in Orlando

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will meet Feb. 13-14 in Orlando to discuss Florida’s saltwater fishery, including final rules for game fish and sport fish designations, new gray triggerfish standards and amendments that update or clean up other rules; falconry amendments; freshwater fishing and hunting matters, including two new wildlife management areas and more flexible hunting permits; and more.

The Wednesday-Thursday meeting at the “Ports of Call” meeting facility at SeaWorld, 7007 SeaWorld Drive, Orlando, FL 32821, begins at 8:30 a.m. both days and is open to the public. Anyone wishing to address specific issues or items not on the agenda will be allowed to speak according to guidelines established by the Commission.


On the first day of the meeting, after review of consent agenda items, which include Commission consideration of provisions establishing saltwater-license-free fishing days for 2013, Executive Director Nick Wiley will present the director’s report. Next on Feb. 13, FWC Commissioners will take up marine fisheries issues, starting with updates from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, which will include a discussion on Gulf of Mexico red snapper seasons and other management options.

The Commission will then consider, in a final public hearing, setting the Gulf of Mexico recreational gag grouper season in state waters. The proposed federal season, which will start July 1 and end when the recreational annual catch limit is expected to be met, will not be finalized before the Commission meeting. If approved, the proposed season for most state waters would start July 1. The Commission will determine at the meeting whether to end the state season when the Gulf federal season ends, which is expected to be sometime around late November/early December, or whether to select a specific ending date. This July 1 season would not include state waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties. According to the proposal, these will open April 1 through June 30 instead.

Following an update from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting, Commissioners will consider a final rule creating saltwater game fish and sport fish designations that could later be applied to some of Florida’s fisheries. The purpose would be to increase the status of some premier species found in Florida waters and help the state showcase its unique fishing opportunities.

Commissioners will also decide whether to adopt new recreational bag limits and a closed season for gray triggerfish in Gulf of Mexico state waters. These changes would make state regulations for gray triggerfish in Gulf waters consistent with pending federal regulations.

In a draft rule hearing, the Commission will discuss bluefish, including updating several outdated provisions, clarifying that the size limit and recreational bag limit extend into federal waters and reformatting the rule to conform to a new style developed under the rule-cleanup process.

Also in a draft rule hearing, the Commission will discuss proposed format standardization and reorganization for several marine fisheries rules in Florida Administrative Code 68B as well as the addition of a new “General” chapter that will include a series of definitions and general regulations that would be applied to all saltwater fishing.

On the second day of the meeting, Commissioners will consider final amendments for falconry intended to ensure that the sport continues in Florida.

Also on Feb. 14, Commissioners will discuss proposed changes for hunting and freshwater fishing, as well as expanding hunting opportunities and public access on nearly 6 million acres of the FWC’s wildlife management area (WMA) system. Most noteworthy would be the addition of two new WMAs in its Southwest Region for the 2013-14 hunting season.

The Commission will vote on proposed amendments that would allow a quota permit holder to take a different guest each day of a quota hunt. Also, hunters would receive reinstatement of their preference points only if they electronically returned their unused quota permit 10 days or more prior to the first day of their quota hunt. Such returned permits would be reissued to other hunters on a weekly basis, instead of once a month.

After hearing a Critical Wildlife Area (CWA) summary, Commissioners will be asked to delegate to the executive director the authority to make minor changes to, or remove CWAs.

An update on the agency’s Black Bass Management Plan follows and will include information on work with stakeholders and partners and the successful launch of the TrophyCatch program. Staff will also report to Commissioners how the Deer Management Strategic Plan is being implemented.

The last draft rule to be considered Feb. 14 concerns establishing a voluntary private-lands deer management permit program to provide more deer management flexibility. The proposed program is designed to promote wildlife and habitat conservation on private lands in Florida.

At the end of the meetings on both days, the public may comment on items not on the agenda. The complete agenda – with links to background reports, details on consent agenda items and information about the meeting – is available at MyFWC.com/Commission.