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FWC extends conservation measures, approves early closures

By Staff | May 8, 2019

At its May meeting in Tallahassee, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission extended several fisheries management conservation measures for red drum, snook and spotted seatrout in areas of Southwest Florida impacted by a prolonged red tide that occurred from 2017 through mid-February.

The extension for red drum, snook and spotted seatrout will go into effect May 11 and will apply from the Pasco-Hernando county line south (including all waters of Tampa Bay) through Gordon Pass in Collier County. Previously approved catch-and-release measures, including no harvest of spotted seatrout over 20 inches, remain in effect through May 10.

Changes effective May 11:

– Snook and red drum will remain catch-and-release only for an additional year through May 31, 2020.

– Spotted seatrout will be catch-and-release only, including no commercial harvest through May 31, 2020.

The approved changes will give the fisheries additional time to recover from red tide.

Staff will continue monthly monitoring of local red drum, snook and spotted seatrout populations to help determine whether the species are rebuilding under the temporary management measures. It will also revisit the snook extension in early 2020 to determine if the species may be reopened to harvest earlier than May 31, 2020.

Staff has been working with partners, including Coastal Conservation Association Florida, Duke Energy and Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, to raise and release red drum and snook into Southwest Florida waters to help address red tide impacts.

SEASON CLOSURES

Also at the meeting, the FWC approved early season closures for recreationally-caught greater amberjack and gray triggerfish in Gulf state waters.

The greater amberjack and gray triggerfish recreational closures are consistent with recent federal actions.

Greater amberjack closed May 3 to recreational harvest in Gulf state waters and will remain closed in Gulf state and federal waters through July 31, reopening for the fall on Aug. 1 to Oct. 31 for season.

Gray triggerfish will close to recreational harvest n May 11 in Gulf state and federal waters and will remain closed until the federal season reopens.

REEF FISH REGULATIONS

In addition, the FWC moved forward with several changes to reef fish regulations at the meeting.

Starting July 1, the following changes will be in effect:

– A restricted species endorsement and a federal permit to commercially harvest blueline tilefish will be required.

– The minimum size limit for commercial harvest of almaco jack will be 20 inches fork length in Atlantic state waters.

– There will no longer be a 12-inch commercial and recreational minimum size limit for blackfin, queen and silk snapper statewide.

For more information, visit MyFWC.com/Marine.