Why It Matters: Last year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a highly regulated season for some harvest of goliath grouper using population data that showed goliath grouper are no longer subject to overfishing. Counterintuitively, the FWC also proposed a rule supported by the diving community to close three goliath grouper spawning aggregation sites in southeast Florida to all recreational fishing from July 15 – October 15 each year. Unlike the recently implemented limited harvest season for goliath grouper, the proposed closures lacked any scientific justification or sensible balancing of different resource users’ interests.
- During their November 30 – December 1, 2022 meeting, FWC punted a proposed rule, advocated by diving enthusiasts, to close three goliath grouper spawning aggregation sites to all fishing from July 15 to October 15 until their May 2023 meeting.
- On May 5, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation(CSF) submitted a letter in continued opposition to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) proposed rule.
- During their May 10-11 meeting, the FWC voted to table the proposed rule indefinitely.
- The FWC tabling the proposed rule is a huge win for the recreational angling community as well as all those who are proponents of sensible balancing of multiple resource user groups interests. wildlife management decisions that are science based.
Florida’s current goliath grouper catch-and-release regulations are proving to be effective in rebuilding populations while also allowing for recreational fishing opportunities. Without quantitative data to support the closure of these popular recreational fishing destinations during any time of the year, the proposed rule would have unnecessarily restricted recreational angling access in favor of divers who do not contribute to fisheries conservation through the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF).
CSF’s letter stated, “Anglers, through their license fees and excise taxes paid on sportfishing equipment and marine fuels, have helped fund the establishment of artificial reefs in the state and largely pay for the FWC’s management of these sites. There is no similar excise tax on diving equipment, nor a requirement that a diver purchase a fishing license, that provides a comparable level of financial support to the FWC for the construction and maintenance of Florida’s artificial reefs. Prohibiting the more vested angler from using and enjoying the proposed areas during the most popular fishing months of the year in favor of divers, who have contributed less financial support to the establishment and ongoing management of these sites, seems unjustifiable.”
In 2021 alone, the recreational fishing community in Florida contributed over $54 million to conservation funding through the ASCF.
CSF recognizes the difficult position that the FWC encounters when attempting to balance resource use between multiple user groups and applauds the FWC for indefinitely tabling this rule change proposal. CSF will continue to stand alongside our in-state and national partners to ensure quality recreational fishing opportunities remain available for Florida’s anglers.