Fishing for an Answer: State Waits to Hear Outcome of Net Ban Case
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A spokesperson for the Florida Wildlife Commission says the state is waiting for an appeals court decision on whether it should continue to enforce the state's landmark net ban, and what type of nets can be used. The net ban was added as an amendment to the state constitution in 1994 with the support of 72 percent of Florida voters, but since then some commercial fishermen have argued the ban has impacted their livelihood. Lifelong Florida fisherman Captain Dave Lear says that's not true.
"They can still fish using allowable gear. There's millions of pounds of recorded mullet and other species that are being caught with cast nets," says Lear. "We don't need to take a step backwards and allow gill nets again."
Under the rule, gill nets are outlawed, but commercial fishermen can still use cast nets and those smaller than 500 square feet. According to the Florida Wildlife Federation and other groups, since the passage of the net ban amendment there's been a surge in near-shore populations of fish such as redfish, sea trout, and other popular game species.
Protecting the game fishing industry is equally as vital to Florida's economy, explains Lear.
"The sport fishing industry in Florida is billions of dollars worth of economic impact. It's second only to agriculture," says Lear. "The commercial industry was going to fish themselves out of existence if this ban wasn't enacted."
After the constitutional amendment regarding the net ban was passed, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission limited a net's mesh size to two-inch stretch mesh. Commercial fishermen say that limit forces them to only catch juvenile fish, which aren't marketable.