Since Florida has created new rules on commercial harvest of spiny lobster by bullynetters, a federal marine fishery agency wants to hear thoughts on extending the gear regulations beyond state waters.
Staff with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council will hold online webinars Monday and Tuesday to outline a draft proposal to federal rules that could resolve “inconsistencies between state of Florida spiny-lobster regulations and those in federal waters off the coast of Florida....”
Comments and suggestions will be taken during the online sessions, which both start at 6 p.m. To participate, register at www.safmc.net website.
Bullynetting is a night-fishing technique using a spotlight and long-handled net to catch lobster on the bottom.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission last year allowed more access to the state’s commercial lobster fishery through bullynetting, the oldest form of harvesting lobster. Primary methods of catching Florida lobster commercially are the use of traps and diving, both of which are tightly regulated.
Newly enacted state rules say bullynet boats, which work primarily at night, cannot have trap pullers or scuba gear aboard. Those are among proposals suggested in the federal council’s Amendment 13 to the Spiny Lobster Plan.
“What we’re trying to do with this amendment [to the federal lobster management plan] is align the federal regulations with Florida’s regulations,” said Christina Wiegand of the federal council’s staff. “One goal is to make it easier for law enforcement who work on both state and federal waters.”
Currently there are no commercial harvest bag limits for bullynetting in federal water, although Florida limits of 250 pounds per day apply to all bullynetters who hold a Florida saltwater-products license.
Amendment 13 includes options for an endorsement, vessel marking, and gear prohibitions for the bully net fishery, similar to those currently required in Florida state waters. The Florida Keys are the most active location for catching spiny lobster.
Renewed interest in professional bullynetting caused the harvest of lobster by netters to surge from about 48,000 pounds of commercial harvest in the 2012-13 season to 216,000 pounds in 2013-14, federal records show. The number of licensed commercial bullynetters jumped from just over 100 in 2012 to nearly 300 by 2015. The bullynet harvest scaled back to about 146,000 pounds in the 2015-16 season.
As outlined, the South Atlantic council could review comments and decide on its preferred bullynet alternatives at its June meeting. Final approval or denial could take place in September.
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206