FLORIDA GOVERNOR DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY DUE TO RED TIDE

From the Fishing Wire

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Florida Governor Rick Scott has issued Executive Order 18-221 declaring a state of emergency due to impacts of red tide in Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Red tide is a naturally occurring algae that has been documented along Florida’s Gulf Coast since the 1840’s and occurs nearly every year.  

Governor Scott said, “As Southwest Florida and the Tampa Bay area continues to feel the devastating impacts of red tide, we will continue taking an aggressive approach by using all available resources to help our local communities. Today, I am issuing an emergency declaration to provide significant funding and resources to the communities experiencing red tide so we can combat its terrible impacts. This includes making additional FWC biologists and scientists available to assist in clean-up and animal rescue efforts, more than $100,000 for Mote Marine Laboratory and $500,000 for VISIT FLORIDA to establish an emergency grant program to help local communities continue to bring in the visitors that support so many Florida families and businesses. 

“In addition to the emergency order, I am also directing a further $900,000 in grants for Lee County to clean up impacts related to red tide – bringing total red tide grant funding for Lee County to more than $1.3 million. While we fight to learn more about this naturally-occurring phenomenon, we will continue to deploy all state resources and do everything possible to make sure that Gulf Coast residents are safe and area businesses can recover.” 

Through the executive order, Governor Scott is providing significant state funding to local governments and research agencies, and allowing the rapid movement of resources to local communities in response to red tide impacts in Southwest Florida and the Tampa Bay area. Resources being deployed through the emergency order include: 

·                  More than $100,000 in additional funding to Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium to increase its response to red tide impacts. This funding will help Mote Marine deploy additional scientists to assist local efforts to save animals affected by the naturally occurring red tide, including manatees, dolphins and sea turtles.

o        Since 2011, Florida has invested more than $17.3 million through the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) in red tide research, including more than $5.5 million for a partnership with Mote Marine to study the causes of red tide.

·                  Making additional biologists and scientist available to support local government’s response to red tide and protect wildlife – this is in addition to the staff deployed by FWC at Governor Scott’s direction last week.

·                  Continuation of enhanced water monitoring and testing by the Department of Environmental Protection and FWC to give scientists the best possible data to work with.

·                  Direction for VISIT FLORIDA to begin developing a marketing campaign to assist Southwest Florida communities that will start following this year’s red tide blooms.

o        VISIT FLORIDA will also create a $500,000 emergency grant program to assist local tourism development boards in counties affected by the naturally-occurring red tide.

·                  Additional aid from the Department of Economic Opportunity with business assistance, including interest free loans and an enhanced presence in Southwest Florida.

THE STATE OF FLORIDA HAS TAKEN THE FOLLOWING ACTIONS ON RED TIDE:  

FISH AND WILDLIFE

·                  DEP and FWC have provided $100,000 in additional funding to Mote Marine to support efforts to rescue distressed marine animals, such as dolphins, sea turtles and manatees.

·                  Continuation of enhanced water monitoring and testing by the Department of Environmental Projection and FWC to give scientists the best possible data to work with.

·                  At Governor Scott’s direction, FWC has mobilized all available resources to mitigate naturally occurring red tide, and Executive Director Eric Sutton has waived rules through an executive order to expedite the removal of dead fish – regardless of applicable bag, size, or possession limits or of season or area closures – from shoreline, inshore or nearshore areas in the following counties: Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas.

·                  FWC law enforcement officers have been actively helping with animal rescue and red tide reconnaissance work.

·                  Additional biologists and scientist are available to support local government’s response to red tide and protect wildlife.

·                  FWC is operating the toll-free fish kill hotline. To report fish kills, contact the FWC Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511 or submit a report online. Reports from this hotline help FWC researchers track and better understand the impact of red tide in Florida.

·                  FWC remains available to local agencies and partners in affected areas, including area business and tourism groups in Southwest Florida. Any local agency or group that has any questions or concerns can contact Kelly Richmond from the FWC at 727-502-4784.

·                  FWC continues to partner with the Florida Department of Health to advise residents and visitors of any potential health impacts. Residents and visitors can contact the DOH’s aquatic toxin experts at 850-245-4250 or contact their local health department for any concern about health safety.

·                  FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and Mote Marine Laboratory work together to monitor Karenia brevis. This cooperative effort is designed to help mitigate the adverse impacts of red tide. This joint research program that includes red tide monitoring, research and public outreach and education has resulted in better tools and ongoing monitoring for red tides along the Gulf Coast.

·                  In partnership with FWC, the Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides (CPR) at the University of South Florida offers a new Harmful Algal Bloom tracking tool that generates a 3.5-day forecast of the bloom trajectories.

·                  To protect public health, FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s Harmful Algal Bloom group closely monitors the status of K. brevis on Florida’s coasts, providing technical support to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the agency that regulates approved shellfish harvesting areas.

·                  Since 2000, FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute established a Red Tide Offshore Monitoring Program, which is a volunteer program for citizens to help collect water samples from routine collection points and sites reported for suspected harmful algal blooms. The timely sampling by volunteers allows researchers to provide an early warning of offshore algal blooms and investigate reported events as they occur. The Program needs volunteers to collect samples from all coastal Florida counties. To view more information visit, Red Tide Offshore Monitoring Program or use the Volunteer SignUp Form.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

·                  Under the direction of the emergency order issued by Governor Scott last month, DEP provided $1.3 million in grant funding to Lee County to clean up waterways affected by red tide. Lee County will use this additional funding to enhance the county’s efforts to clean local waterways from impacts caused by red tide.

·                  DEP continues to perform enhanced water testing, beach cleanup and public outreach, as well as the deployment of additional biologists to assist communities dealing with naturally occurring red tide.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

  • Florida’s County Health Departments have taken the following actions:
    • Lee County has posted red tide signs at more than 170 beach access points along the Lee County coastline. The red tide signs provide details on respiratory issues, health precautions, and resources for FWC, Mote Marine and current beach conditions. Environmental staff and County Health Department (CHD) leadership are in contact with city and county leadership, as well as local partners, in order to coordinate efforts and messaging. A press release detailing the effects of red tide and resources for mediation was sent out to local media partners. Additional resources, like website materials, social media posts, etc., have been shared with local partners for their use and distribution to their partners.
    • Sarasota County environmental staff and CHD leadership have been in contact with city and county government and Visit Sarasota in order to coordinate messaging and provide template signage, website links, and creative materials. The CHD has also worked with the county in order to post signs at every beach, provided rack cards to the county and Mote for distribution.
    • Charlotte County has posted signage along the beaches to advise visitors and tourists about the water conditions. The CHD has performed outreach to their community partners, as well as local government, to share informational resources, creative materials and public health messaging. They also are coordinating efforts and assisting their sister agencies, as needed.

BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY

  • Governor Scott has directed VISIT FLORIDA to begin developing a marketing campaign to assist Southwest Florida communities that will start following this year’s red tide blooms.
  • VISIT FLORIDA will create a $500,000 emergency grant program to assist local tourism development boards in counties affected by the naturally-occurring red tide.
  • The Department of Economic Opportunity is providing interest free loans and has deployed an enhanced presence in Southwest Florida.

TIPS FOR PREVENTING HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS

In light of the recent disastrous water conditions along the east and west coasts of Florida, here are some techniques to insure that we as individuals or groups don’t become part of the problem.

SoLitude Lake Management

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The summer season means warmth, sunshine and long days to enjoy swimming, boating, fishing, and spending time around the water. Unfortunately for many communities, the warm weather can also promote the growth of algae blooms in lakes and ponds used for recreation and drinking water. In community waterbodies, moderate amounts of algae can often signify the waterbody is in good health, but excess algae levels may indicate that the natural balance of the ecosystem has been compromised. Without swift and proper management, certain species of algae, like cyanobacteria, can begin producing harmful toxins. Following exposure or digestion of these toxins, humans and animals can experience skin rashes, liver and kidney toxicity, nervous system problems, respiratory complications and even death. Exposure to cyanobacteria also has suspected links to the development of degenerative diseases like ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) can occur naturally, but have been a problem for decades due to the negative environmental impacts associated with urban development, mass agriculture and pollution. In recent years, private research and greater public awareness around the subject of HABs have brought nationwide attention to dangerous cyanobacteria blooms like the one currently plaguing Lake Okeechobee, the largest lake in Florida.

To help limit the growth of HABs in your community waterbodies, SOLitude Lake Management, an industry leader in lake, stormwater pond, wetland and fisheries management services, recommends the following sustainable measures to homeowners, golf courses, reservoirs and municipalities:

Effectively identify HABs

Accurate identification of harmful algal blooms is the first step to protect your family, your pets and surrounding wildlife from the negative effects of algal toxin exposure. Depending on the waterbody, a potentially harmful bloom may manifest in parallel streaks or clumped dots. Other blooms may look like spilled blue, green or white paint or turn the water a bright “pea soup” green. Keep an eye out for soupy or oily scum on the surface of the water.

Properly dispose of organic materials

Following yard work, leaves, grass and other debris should be bagged and removed from the property to prevent them from accumulating and decaying in the waterbody. When organic materials are allowed to decompose in freshwater resources, they release undesirable nutrients that are responsible for fueling nuisance plant and algae growth.

Establish a beneficial buffer

Steps should be taken to intercept runoff containing sediment, trash and other organic materials from entering lakes and ponds during rainstorms. Allow native flowering, deep-rooted vegetation to grow 3 to 5 feet from the edge of the lake or pond shoreline in a beautiful buffer.

Reduce excess nutrients

For lakes and ponds with chronic nutrient problems, the application of phosphorous-locking technologies, such as Phoslock and Alum, can make a noticeable impact. When applied by a licensed professional, these products work to rapidly remove free reactive phosphorous from the water column, improving water clarity and permanently reducing undesirable nutrients in the water column—so they can no longer contribute to harmful algae growth.

Add aeration

When paired with other nutrient-limiting strategies, floating fountains and submersed diffused aerators can help consistently circulate warm stagnant water and facilitate the conversion of phosphorous and nitrogen to nutrient forms that do not sustain algae as food.

Apply beneficial bacteria

Another way to limit algae’s food source is through the introduction of bacteria and enzymes, a process called biological augmentation. The beneficial bacteria can help consume additional pond nutrients that fuel nuisance algae blooms and help facilitate the degradation of the organic nutrient sources.

Regularly test water quality

Lake and pond owners and municipality leaders often wait until after a toxic algae bloom appears to conduct water quality tests, but a proactive testing program can help identify water quality impairments related to dissolved oxygen, pH or nutrient levels before they get out of hand. Over time, water quality data can be used to predict the onset of a bloom and prevent its impact without closing the waterbody or interfering with irrigation or drinking water services.   

By taking the appropriate proactive steps to protect your lake or pond from HABs and nuisance algae, you can help ensure the protection of native plants and wildlife and the enjoyment of your waterbody throughout the summer. Through this approach, the ecological balance and natural beauty of your waterbody can be achieved, maximized and appreciated for years to come.

 SOLitude Lake Management is a nationwide environmental firm committed to providing sustainable solutions that improve water quality, enhance beauty, preserve natural resources and reduce our environmental footprint. SOLitude’s team of aquatic resource management professionals specializes in the development and execution of customized lake, pond, wetland and fisheries management programs that include water quality testing and restoration, nutrient remediation, algae and aquatic weed control, installation and maintenance of fountains and aeration systems, bathymetry, mechanical harvesting and hydro-raking, lake vegetation studies, biological assessments, habitat evaluations, and invasive species management. Services and educational resources are available to clients nationwide, including homeowners associations, multi-family and apartment communities, golf courses, commercial developments, ranches, private landowners, reservoirs, recreational and public lakes, municipalities, drinking water authorities, parks, and state and federal agencies. SOLitude Lake Management is a proud member of the Rentokil Steritech family of companies in North America. For more educational resources, please visit: solitudelakemanagement.com/education

STRIPED BASS WORKSHOP

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Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Atlantic Striped Bass Stock Assessment Workshop sponsored by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is scheduled for September 11-14, 2018 at the Commission’s office at 1050 North Highland Street, Suite 200A-N, Arlington, Virginia. The assessment will evaluate the condition of Atlantic striped bass stocks from Maine to North Carolina. The workshop is open to the public, with the exception of discussion of confidential data when the public will be asked to leave the room. 

The deadlines for the submission of data and alternate models have passed. The final step in the assessment process is a formal peer review. This will be conducted at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s 66th Stock Assessment Workshop, November 27-30, 2018. The Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board will be presented the findings of the assessment and peer review at the Commission’s Winter Meeting in February 2019.

For more information about the assessment or attending the upcoming workshop contact Max Appelman, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at mappelman@asmfc.org or call (703) 842-0740.

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VIRGINIA STRIPED BASS CONTROVERSY

Dave Ress

Hampton Roads Daily Press

Commercial fishermen asked state regulators Tuesday night to make recreational fishermen tag their striped bass the way commercial operators do, to make sure they’re not taking too many fish.

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But the idea died when Doug Jenkins, president of the Twin Rivers Watermen’s group, in Warsaw, outlined his proposal to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s finfish management advisory committee.

“We’re losing our rockfish (striped bass) quota and losing our crab industry,” Jenkins told the committee.

He said the 20 percent cut in striped bass quotas imposed three years ago have hit commercial fishermen hard.

They believe they’re being discriminated against and that there’s a need to be sure recreational fishermen aren’t catching too many striped bass.

Jenkins said there are enough striped bass to allow commercial fishermen to catch more, and that striped bass preying on crabs is one reason why crab populations are down.

But the request comes at a bad time, when nobody seems to know for certain what the real state of the striped bass stock is, said Jeff Deem, chairman of the advisory committee.

A new assessment of fish populations, based on more detailed studies of where and how fish are caught, could upend everything fisheries regulators think they know about striped bass, said VMRC chief of fisheries management Rob O’Reilly.

On top of that, he said, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission last year rebuffed the Virginia commission’s request for a 10-percent increase in the quota for striped bass.

“Ten percent, that’s all we were asking for and they voted it down,” he said.

“We get outvoted on striped bass all the time.”

In 2014, the Atlantic States fisheries commission cut Virginia’s quota by 24 percent, to 1.06 million pounds.

At the time, the state eliminated a quota for recreational fishermen, relying on daily catch limits to ensure they’re not taking too many striped bass. Jenkins saw the tagging proposal — which basically would mean fishermen could get a summons if a marine police officer found them with an untagged fish — as a way of enforcing limits on the recreational catch. That would make things fairer for commercial operators, he said.

“We don’t want to catch all the fish, we want to leave some for next year, just like you do,” Jenkins said.

Both the commercial and recreational catch are down from peaks hit last decade, the 2017 Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission review of its striped bass fishery management plan shows.

Commercial fishermen caught about 129,500 striped bass in 2016, while recreational fishermen landed 110,500.

But the drop in recreational landings was far steeper — a 69 percent drop over the decade. The decline in numbers caught by commercial operators was 8 percent, as the average weight of fish landed declined.

The Chesapeake Bay is the main place striped bass from up and down the Atlantic go to spawn. The Chesapeake Bay Program says the relative abundance of juvenile striped bass is on the rise, including in the James, York and Rappahannock rivers.

The fishery nearly collapsed in the early 1980s, but it has come back to become one of the most lucrative in the state, though at levels far below peaks of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

FLORIDA GOVERNOR ASKS FOR ALGAE HELP

Southwest Florida Water Management District

Governor Rick Scott met with White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to continue advocating for full funding for the repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee. The Governor also spoke about the importance of the federal government quickly approving the EAA reservoir project, which will hold more water south of Lake Okeechobee. For decades, Congress has failed to address these issues and Governor Scott has fought for these projects which will ultimately help minimize harmful water releases to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers and Estuaries that can cause algae to bloom.

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To immediately help the growing issues related to algal blooms, Governor Scott announced that at his direction, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has partnered with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to identify additional funding for more water flow monitoring stations along the Caloosahatchee River. These devices will provide water managers with new data to assess conditions in the river and the origin of water following into the system. This will help water mangers determine the best course of action to help our communities.

Governor Scott said, “Today, I met with the White House on the importance of quickly providing full funding for the repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike and approving the EAA Reservoir project. Our focus remains on limiting the harmful impacts from Lake Okeechobee water releases by the federal government, and after decades of Congressional inaction, our communities are facing this problem once again. The state continues to take proactive and unprecedented steps to help solve this problem because our families deserve action and clean water.”

DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said, “The health of Florida’s coastal estuaries and the waterways that feed them are vital to our state’s environment, economy and communities. DEP continues to actively monitor our waterways and these additional stations will help us and our local partners respond to changing conditions. DEP remains committed to partnering with our local communities to better protect our waterways.”

SFWMD Governing Board Member Jaime Weisinger said, “Additional monitoring means better information for making informed decisions. These monitoring stations will help provide new flow data to DEP and further aid in the state’s mission restore and protect the Caloosahatchee Estuary.”

Mayor of Sanibel Kevin Ruane, said “The City of Sanibel and our west coast partners are very pleased that the DEP is moving forward with installation of flow monitoring devices within the Caloosahatchee watershed. On average, more than 50 percent of the flow that the Caloosahatchee estuary receives comes from the watershed. The information provided by the flow monitoring devices will help resource managers identify where stormwater runoff is coming from and determine the types of projects and best management practices needed to address these flows in the future.”

In addition to the water flow monitoring stations, three additional monitoring stations are being installed through a joint agreement that was approved by the Lee County Board of County Commissioners last week to expand water monitoring efforts in the downstream Caloosahatchee watershed. These monitoring stations will be located below the Franklin Lock along the freshwater tributaries of the Caloosahatchee Estuary. Funding for this project is being provided by DEP, SFWMD, U.S. Geological Survey and Lee County. Coastal communities in Florida are already seeing the impacts and algae blooms due to lake releases this year. Last year, the Governor signed legislation to expedite the EAA Reservoir and secured an additional $50 million for the Herbert Hoover Dike, bringing the state’s total investment to $100 million.

Also, last week, Governor Scott directed DEP to issue an Emergency Order urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and SFWMD to take emergency actions to help redirect the flow of water out of Lake Okeechobee south.

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OKEECHOBEE SNOOK & TARPON?

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Capt. Brian Honnorlaw of Lake Okeechobee Outdoors guide service (facebook.com/lakeokeechobeeoutdoors/) boated this 30-plus-inch snook on the Kissimmee River at Lake Okeechobee.

The west side of Lake Okeechobee in Glades County, Florida is an overlooked jewel of south Florida for anglers. To begin with it has some of the best largemouth bass and crappie fishing in the world, both of which have gained a bit of notoriety.

But, one might ask what that has to do with saltwater fly fishing? One trait of snook, tarpon and even jack crevalle are the fish are quite uppity and don’t seem to know their place.

Although this region lies at least 60 miles from the nearest true saltwater, these three species of fish show up regularly in the waters of Glade County. Indeed, some of these fish are year-round residents.

The two areas most likely to produce the snook and tarpon are around the mouths of the Caloosahatchee and Kissimmee Rivers at the lake. The snook usually are in some of the deeper holes along the shore, while the tarpon can be found rolling on the surface. In the case of the jacks, look for them busting bait downstream of the locks at Lakeport on the Caloosahatchee River in the summer months.

For more information on Glades County, go to visitglades.org.

NEW RULES FOR SOUTH CAROLINA REDFISH

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South Carolina Department of Natural Resources article

Red drum, redfish, spottail, channel bass – South Carolina’s most popular saltwater gamefish goes by many names and plays a key role in the coastal economy and ecosystems.

In recent years, state biologists have documented a declining trend in the state’s red drum population, which has been underscored by reports from longtime local anglers. These concerns prompted the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) to take a closer look at the species last year, culminating in an assessment that found South Carolina’s red drum population was experiencing overfishing.

The South Carolina General Assembly responded by passing a new law intended to reverse overfishing, which Governor Henry McMaster recently signed. The new catch limit allows two fish per person per day and no more than six fish per boat per day, effective July 1, 2018. The previous catch limit was three fish per person per day, with no boat limit. The slot limit (15-23 inches) remains unchanged.

“We’ve been monitoring red drum populations across the state using the same techniques for nearly 30 years, and what we’ve seen over the last 10-15 years is concerning,” said assistant marine scientist Dr. Joey Ballenger, who oversees SCDNR’s red drum research. “Across the state, we’ve seen declines in abundance of the juvenile fish most commonly targeted by anglers.”

Research at SCDNR shows that poor reproductive years are not necessarily unusual for these long-lived species – Ballenger notes that large crops of red drum fish are only produced about twice a decade. However, Ballenger’s team has also discovered that not as many red drum are surviving from one year to the next as in previous generations. The reasons for this poor survival are unclear, but the impact has translated into fewer fish within the slot size limit, which is ultimately expected to mean fewer adult fish annually entering the spawning population.

 “Not only are we seeing declines in the annual crop of fish produced by adults, we are seeing that those produced are experiencing higher mortality rates,” Dr. Ballenger said. “Over time, this translates to fewer and fewer adult fish being around to produce the next crop, resulting in a feedback loop that continues the process.”

At the same time these ecological fluctuations have occurred, fishing pressure has increased in South Carolina, especially on large adult fish.

Adult red drum are already protected from harvest in South Carolina. Under current legislation, the fish are only legal to harvest when they fall between 15-23 inches in length – a size range that they reach for a little more than a year of their life.

As a result, the red drum fishery in South Carolina is defined by catch and release – 80 percent of red drum caught by anglers are released. But even under ideal conditions, studies estimate that 8 to 16 percent of caught-and-released fish die after release. Minimizing the death of released adult fish is critical to maintaining good fishing.

The red drum from South Carolina to Florida are managed as a single population, and the status of regional management is currently unclear. This left SCDNR staff with questions about the status of the species in South Carolina, given the declines seen in catch rates of young fish. The agency therefore initiated an assessment of red drum just in South Carolina to better understand the health of this important species in local waters.

The assessment determined that with a three fish per person per day bag limit, not enough red drum are surviving to sustain the population over the long-term.

The study also found that a modest shift in regulations – from three to two fish per person per day – would be enough, in time, to improve the number of fish recruiting into the adult population.

 

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SOUTHERN SALTWATER FLY FISHING MAGAZINE GOING BI-MONTHLY

The summer issue of Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing Magazine that comes out in a couple of weeks will be the last quarterly edition readers will see. Beginning with the September/October magazine we will begin publishing on a bi-monthly schedule. Coupled with the increase from four to six destination articles that was instituted with the summer edition that means you will get more than double the stories in 2019. We look forward to bringing you more action and continuing to expand our coverage.

BAHAMIAN FISHING REGULATIONS SUSPENDED

April 23, 2018

As reported by Tribune 242

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The Government has suspended the flats fishing regulations after their “hasty crafting and poor implementation” was blamed for up to a 40 per cent fall in bonefish lodge bookings.

The Abaco Fly Fishing Association, in a statement yesterday, said the entire Bahamas was now “feeling the pinch” due to the significant loss of tourism revenue in the Family Islands.

It blamed the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) (Flats Fishing) Regulations 2017, introduced by the former Christie administration, for causing a major decline in anglers visiting the Bahamas to bonefish. Lodge bookings, it added, had fallen by between 20 per cent to 40 per cent.

“The Out Islands of the southern Bahamas have been especially hard hit,” the Association said. “Bonefishing lodges on Andros and Long Island, as well as the US-based Bahamas booking agents, report declines in bookings of 20 to 40 per cent or more, which means guides and staff are not working as many hours this year and our taxi drivers are losing business. “Without the influx of operating capital by the foreign anglers being spread throughout the communities, houses are being left unfinished, medical care is put off, and plans are put on hold because of lack of income. The job of caring for one’s family and raising children has gotten harder because of the flats fishing regulations, as noted by one lodge owner on Andros.

“This is most alarming because the anglers are still flats fishing; they are just doing it in other places. Cuba, Belize, Mexico, Central America, Christmas Island and the Seychelles are the recipients of those tourist dollars now.”

The Association said the Minnis administration has now suspended enforcement of the regulations until their impact can be reviewed, as angler licenses have been extremely difficult to obtain and pay for.

The regulations require anglers over the age of 12, and those who wish to fish in the flats, to apply for a personal angler’s license and pay a set fee. Non-Bahamians will have to pay $15 for a daily license; $20 for a weekly license; $30 for a monthly license; and $60 for an annual license.

The regulations also require a foreign vessel wishing to fish in the Bahamian flats to obtain the usual sports fishing permit, with each person on the vessel also holding a personal license. The regulations ban commercial fishing in the flats, and anglers are only allowed to catch and release when catching bonefish, permit, snook, cobia and tarpon. A Conservation Fund for the management and protection of the flats and fisheries resources in the Bahamas is to be established.

The suspension was immediately slammed by PLP chairman Fred Mitchell as “an act of madness”, adding that the Opposition was “confounded” that the Government had “stripped away protection” for the fishing grounds and Bahamians.

Accusing the Government of “looking out for foreigners and not for Bahamians”, Mr Mitchell added: “The PLP put in place regulations which protected fly fishing for Bahamians, and maximum protection against pilferage by strangers coming into this country to pillage our fish stocks.

“All the patient work done by the Fisheries Department under the PLP has been scrapped, and now there is open season in our fishing flats.”

Describing the situation as “shameful”, Mr Mitchell said Renward Wells, minister of agriculture and marine resources, had failed to “stand up” for conservation and Bahamian bonefish guides while foregoing the revenue that will now be lost from licenses.

“The PLP pledges as soon as it returns to office to return the provisions and rules to protect Bahamian fishing stocks and the fly fishing sector for Bahamians,” he added.

When the proposed regulations for the industry were first unveiled, they created considerable controversy and effectively divided the 400 local guides and the lodge owners.

The latter were more opposed to the proposals, while there was concern that the regulations, as initially drafted, gave the impression that the Bahamas was being too protectionist, restrictive and anti-foreign, tying up access by foreign anglers in bureaucracy and red tape, not to mention increased costs.

“A flats fishing license with funds supporting conservation, education and enforcement is supported by 100 per cent of visiting anglers, guides and lodge owners. But the roll-out of the licensing process has been confusing and extremely difficult for anglers and lodge owners,” the Association said.

“With only a few days prior notice, licensing was put into effect in January 2017. Officials on Out Islands were scrambling to obtain the documents from central government to initiate licensing sales. Anglers were to buy the licenses at the Administrator’s Office. Administrators were busy, so they gave the licensing materials to the fisheries offices to sell, leaving anglers wandering around trying to find the proper offices in which to buy the license.

“To complicate matters for the angling visitors, who would naturally surmise that a fishing license would be sold by the Department of Marine Resources, after a few weeks, fishery offices were told to stop selling licenses and only administrators were authorised to do so.”

The Association added: “There is a license application available for download on the Government’s website. But there is no way to actually buy the license online. The application must be filled out, printed, signed by the angler and then presented to the island administrator’s office for issuance when they arrive at their fishing destination.

“The website also advises that the turnaround time is one day, and that opening hours are 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, except public holidays. Most tourists travel Saturday to Saturday.

“The Government must stop the bleeding of our tourism dollars to other countries and bring our flats fishing tourists back to the Bahamas by enacting sensible flats fishing regulations that welcome visitors. Prime Minister Minnis should return the flats fishing tourism portfolio to the Ministry of Tourism, who did a much better job of welcoming angling tourists to our islands before the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association’s ideas led to the decline of angling tourism.”

ISLAMORADA TO HOST HISTORIC LADIES TARPON FLY TOURNAMENT

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Women who love the sport of saltwater fly-fishing in the shallow waters of Islamorada and Florida Bay are naturally attracted to the rich history of the Ladies Tarpon Fly Tournament. Its 41st annual edition is set for Monday through Thursday, June 11-14. 

Since 1977, an elite group of women anglers have come from all over the world to fish for tarpon in this all-release fly-fishing invitational during the species’ famously unique migration.  

A few spots remain to be filled in the iconic 2018 fishing challenge.

“This is a competition that connects women in the sport, forms new friendships and creates lasting memories, all while pursuing one of the world's greatest fighting fish — the silver king,” said longtime tournament organizer Heidi Nute, a well-documented record-holding angler herself. 

Tournament participants range from expert to novice, those whose favorite species is tarpon and ladies endeavoring to improve fly-fishing skills. 

A kick-off event is set the evening of June 11 at Green Turtle Inn, mile marker (MM) 81. Fishing June 12-14 commences after daily breakfast at the Lorelei Restaurant, MM 82 bayside.

Awards are to be given Thursday evening, June 14, at the Islamorada Fishing Club, also located at MM 82 bayside, in various categories including Grand Champion and Best New Angler. Awards consist of works by notable wildlife artists, fishing tackle and accessories, as well as travel packages to fishing and hunting destinations. 

The entry fee of $850 includes a gear-filled gift bag valued at $500, admission to the kick-off event, daily breakfast, hors d’oeuvres, social events and the awards dinner for angler and guide. The angler is responsible for paying her guide.

For more details contact facebook.com/keystarpon or heidinute@yahoo.com.

MISSISSPPI COAST FLY FISHERS GULFPORT, MISSISSIPPI

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We are a group of fly fishers who share an interest in fly fishing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and nearby areas. Our members fish both fresh and saltwater for everything from bream to trout. Mississippi Coast Fly Fishers is affiliated with the Fly Fishers International and Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing.

Meetings are held at 7:00 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of every month except December (we have a meeting the first Thursday only). We normally have a guest speaker or some other activity. Fly Casting Sessions are held during daylight saving time starting at 6:30 p.m. before each meeting.

For more details visit gcflyfishers.org.

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MORE COVERAGE IN SOUTHERN SALTWATER FLY FISHING MAGAZINE

With the release of the summer edition of Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing Magazine, readers will see the first of several coming changes – all of which are for the better. We are expanding from our present format of four destination features in each issue to six, which provides the opportunity for us to bring you more fishing, in more places, from more of the best writers in our coverage range.

Stay tuned for more improvements in the near future as well.

NEW BOOK FROM CAPT. JOHN KUMISKI

Capt. John Kumiski is a veteran fly-fishing guide in the Indian River waters of east Florida. He also is an accomplished freelance writer and contributor to Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing Magazine.

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The Indian River Lagoon Chronicles - A Narrative Paddle Adventure Through the History and Natural History of the Indian River Lagoon, an exciting new book by John Kumiski, delves into the fascinating lore and natural history of the Indian River Lagoon.

On December 1, 2013, five intrepid paddlers launched their vessels at JB's Fish Camp in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Their destination was Jupiter, Florida, 160 miles distant. During the 19 day voyage of discovery, they travel the length of the Indian River Lagoon, meeting birds, snails, manatees, mangroves, dolphins, scientists, restaurateurs, seagrasses, other paddlers, the ghost of Henry Flagler, and much more. 

Into the tale of their journey is woven the forgotten history of the people who lived along the lagoon's banks - Indians, soldiers, settlers, agriculturalists, fishermen, treasure hunters, entrepreneurs, dredgers and many others. 

"The story of the Indian River Lagoon, one of Florida's most fantastic natural resources, needed to be told," the author explained. "What better way to tell it than by using a paddle adventure as a narrative thread to bind it all together?"  

The Indian River Lagoon Chronicles - A Narrative Paddle Adventure Through the History and Natural History of the Indian River Lagoon, by John Kumiski, (6 inches x 9 inches, 192 pages) is available from Argonaut Publishing Company, 284 Clearview Road, Chuluota, FL 32766, (407) 977-5207, spottedtail.com/indian-river-lagoon-chronicles. The price is $19.95, plus tax and $5.95 shipping.