A new Florida commercial lobster license for bully-netters will come with a “Respectful Bully Netting” outreach campaign.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission members on Feb. 8 approved creation of a new bully-net endorsement for people who have a commercial endorsement for lobster.
“Conflicts between waterfront homeowners and bully-netters” was cited as one concern about expanding the commercial lobster industry to include the netting technique. Many of those conflicts arise in the Florida Keys, where bully-net boats come close to residential shorelines. The campaign seeks to resolve those issues.
Bully-netters standing on a shallow-draft boat use a spotlight to find lobster on the bottom, then use a long-handled net to catch them.
“Bully-netting is a method of lobster harvest carried out by commercial and recreational fishers, primarily in the Keys and south Miami-Dade County during the first few months of the regular lobster season,” says a background report to the FWC board. “It occurs at night and requires clear, calm water.”
“The FWC has received input from stakeholders about the increasing participation in the commercial bully net lobster fishery, and these changes will help address some of those concerns,” an agency spokeswoman said.
Trap fishermen have asked that enforcement officers keep a watch for “potential use of the bully-net fishery as a cover for illegal lobster harvest.”
The increased use of bully nets for commercial lobstering “allows opportunities for young or new fishers [and] preserves the culture of participation in the Keys commercial lobster fishery,” a report says.
New rules that take effect May 1:
▪ Requiring commercial bully-net vessels be marked with the harvester’s endorsement number using reflective paint or reflective material.
▪ Prohibiting trap pullers on commercial bully net vessels.
▪ Prohibiting the simultaneous possession of a bully net and any underwater breathing apparatus (not including dive masks or snorkels) aboard a vessel harvesting to carrying lobster for commercial sale.
The new rules will be in effect during the commercial lobster season that begins Aug. 6.
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206