From the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust…
In less than one week, on the morning of June 12 at their meeting in Lakeland, FL, the members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will take their final vote on proposed regulations to make tarpon and bonefish catch and release in the State of Florida. Your input is critically important. If you have already shared your support with the commission or forwarded the call for action to friends, thank you. If you haven’t taken the time to do so, please let the commissioners know how you feel. Here’s how you can help.
The basics of the proposed rules are:
- As of 2011, bonefish are catch and release only except for an exemption for tournaments that allows for retention of bonefish in a live-well for transport to a weigh-in station. The new draft regulations would remove that exemption, meaning that all bonefish would have to be released at the site of capture (temporarily possessing a fish for weighing, photography, scientific sampling would be OK). IGFA allows world record weights to be obtained as long as the scale is attached to something (such as an angler) standing on the bottom (such as the flat).
- The intent is to manage tarpon as a catch-and-release-only fishery with allowable harvest and possession limited to possession in pursuit of an IGFA record.
- At present, there are no regulations on tarpon in Federal waters. The proposed rules would extend Florida regulations to apply in Federal waters off the Florida coast.
- Tarpon harvest tags will be limited so that they can only be used to harvest or possess tarpon in pursuit of an IGFA record.
- The total number of tarpon harvest tags that an angler can obtain in one year will be limited to one
- Professional fishing guides will be able to obtain more than one tarpon harvest tag per year
- Tarpon can be targeted with hook and line gear only
- Tarpon can be temporarily possessed for photography, measurement of length and girth, scientific sampling, and released at the site of capture
- Tarpon less than 40 inches fork length can be briefly removed from the water for photography, measurement, scientific sampling.
- Tarpon greater than 40 inches fork length must remain completely in the water
- Tarpon and bonefish are important components of a saltwater recreational fishery in Florida that has an economic impact exceeding $6 billion annually
- A recent international scientific review ranked tarpon as vulnerable due to significant regional population declines (due in part to commercial harvest in Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil) and fishing pressure and research has shown that we all share a regional tarpon population
- Tarpon are long-lived (up to 80 years) and late to become sexually mature (they mature at 8 – 12 years of age), they are especially vulnerable and recovery of the population is on the time scale of decades
- The continued loss of juvenile habitat will delay recovery
- Given the amount of fishing effort for tarpon, we must take the responsible approach to conservation for the long term
- The bonefish population in the Florida Keys has declined significantly for reasons as yet unknown
- Although not well documented, there has been harvest of bonefish by fishermen in South Florida
- Most, if not all, bonefish tournaments have moved or are moving to an all-release format, meaning that retention of bonefish for weigh-in is no longer necessary
Please take the time to attend or contact the commissioners and let them know how you feel. This issue is too important to assume that someone else is speaking up on your behalf.
Bonefish & Tarpon Trust
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