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Quota permits, other rule changes highlight FWC meeting

Florida public land hunters have an interest in the outcome of several issues expected to be addressed at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Feb. 4-5 meeting at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Sandestin.

Florida hunters will lose the ability to transfer quota hunt permits and the state’s quota hunt system will see major changes during the 2009-10 hunting season if the FWC passes new rules on Wednesday, Feb. 4.

The proposed rules would make quota hunt permits nontransferable, but would allow a guest permit (sharing the same one-person bag limit) for archery, muzzleloading gun, general gun, wild hog, mobility-impaired and spring turkey hunts. FWC staff is also proposing to reduce bag limits and cut the number of available quota hunt permits, as well as other rule changes on various wildlife management areas (WMAs).

The FWC will also hear proposed draft rules on public hunting on South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) lands within the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes and Babcock Ranch Preserve which will establish season dates and area-specific regulations.

On Thursday, Feb. 5, the FWC will address marine fisheries issues. A final public hearing will be held on a proposed rule that would establish a June 1 through Sept. 30 recreational red snapper harvest season in Gulf of Mexico state waters. This proposed action would be consistent with the red snapper closed season in Gulf federal waters.

A final public hearing also will be held on proposed rules that would regulate the number of traps used in the lobster fishery. Commercial lobster trap fishermen would still be able to fish with the same number of traps they use now.

However, if they decide to sell or transfer the FWC-issued certificates that authorize their traps to someone outside their immediate family, the proposed rule would reduce the overall number of traps allowed to be sold or transferred by 10%, thereby reducing the overall number of traps in the lobster fishery.

Another final public hearing will take place on proposed rules that would add new fish and invertebrate species to marine life (aquarium species) regulations, establish or change size and bag limits and gear specifications for several species and make other administrative and technical marine life rule changes.

The FWC also will hold a final public hearing on a proposed rule that would help efforts to identify and remove lost and abandoned blue crab traps from Florida waters. The rule would establish six regional closed seasons to the harvest of blue crabs with traps.

This will provide opportunities for authorized persons and groups to clean up trap debris left in the water after fishermen remove their working traps during the proposed closed seasons.

In other action, FWC commissioners will consider a draft rule that would establish administrative penalties for blue crab management program violations, review and discuss management of flounder and various federal fishery management issues and take final action on proposed rules regarding marine special activity licenses.

Meetings are open to the public. The full agenda is available online at MyFWC.com/commission/2009/Feb09/index.htm.