Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator
On January 21, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in support of a four-month seasonal closure from April through July rather than the currently proposed two-month seasonal closure of May and June at a one-square mile piece of reef habitat near Western Dry Rocks in the Florida Keys.
Western Dry Rocks serves as a critical spawning aggregation site for multiple fish species that are important for recreational and commercial fishermen. Spawning aggregation sites are popular destinations for fishermen to utilize but can be overly exploited due to increased catch rates. Hooked fish can also become extremely susceptible to predation. According to recent studies, 39% of permit hooked by anglers are consumed by sharks. This increased rate of predation on mature, spawning fish can be detrimental to the overall sustainability of the fishery.
CSF’s letter stated, “As an advocate for recreational anglers, we support seasonal closures that are science-based and of the shortest duration possible to accomplish the intended goal for fisheries conservation. In the case of the Western Dry Rocks seasonal spawning aggregation of permit, as well as gray, mutton and yellowtail snapper, the science clearly indicates that a four-month closure of just one-square mile of this important spawning habitat would have the greatest potential benefit for populations of these species all along the Florida Keys.”
The public comment period for the seasonal closure at Western Dry Rocks remains open. CSF will continue to support efforts to adopt the four-month seasonal closure. The FWC Commission will discuss the proposed rule changes on February 25 and 26.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?