The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has moved forward with a proposal to create a Gulf Reef Fish Data Reporting System that would help improve recreational reef fish data collection in Florida Gulf waters.
This new system would help determine how many anglers are targeting reef fish in the Gulf. A sample of these anglers would be surveyed to provide more accurate catch and effort data for reef fish trips.
The proposal will be brought back before the Commission at its June meeting in Fort Myers for a final public hearing.
If approved, private recreational anglers fishing from a boat in Gulf state waters (excluding Monroe County), including those 65 and older, would be required to take part in the Gulf Reef Fish Data Reporting System to harvest or possess any of the following reef fish: red and vermilion snapper; gag, black and red grouper; gray triggerfish; greater and lesser amberjack; banded rudderfish; and almaco jack.
Anglers, captain and crew aboard for-hire vessels would not be required to partake in the data collection system because they already have their own survey. Anglers under 16 and those fishing from a boat with a vessel recreational fishing license would also be exempt.
This would be a no-cost program, due to a five-year National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Gulf restoration grant. The commission directed staff to include language for a five-year sunset clause so that when the grant funding ends, the program would be evaluated and reconsidered.
If the Gulf Reef Fish Data Reporting System is approved at the June meeting, data reporting would be required by April 1, 2015. Anglers would be able to enroll and encouraged to sign up when they renew their fishing licenses.