Target: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Goal: Protect sea turtles and marine mammals from drowning, by maintaining ban on deadly nets.
In a recent Florida court ruling, Judge Jackie Fulford ordered an end to a ban on a particularly deadly type of net. Though the order has been put on hold pending an appeal, the ban on the lethal gill net is in danger of being rendered ineffective. Commercial fishermen are frothing at the prospect of deregulation. Please voice your support for maintaining Florida’s ban on dangerous fishing practices.
The aptly named gill net catches fish primarily by entangling their gills when the fish attempt to escape the net. This tortuous trap also entangles great numbers of marine mammals, sea turtles, and other marine life, which are usually discarded near to death or already dead. Habitat loss is also a major consequence of using these types of nets.
The reasoning Judge Fulford gave for lifting the ban is that there are inconsistencies in current Florida law. In 1994, Florida voter’s adopted a ban on all nets except hand thrown cast nets. This ban is articulated in Florida’s Constitution. However, the rules adopted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in 1997 allow for exceptions to this ban. Thus, Judge Fulford deems Florida to have contradictory and unenforceable laws.
This contradiction and the urgency of the situation provide an ideal scenario for the FWC to adopt regulations in accordance with Florida’s Constitution and the 1994 vote of the people. More importantly, the current FWC exemptions allow the use of nets that are considered to be even more deadly than gill nets. The FWC’s mission is, in part, to manage wildlife for their long term well-being. It is therefore the FWC’s duty to provide consistent regulations that the state can enforce without contradiction.
By signing the petition below, you are voicing your desire for the FWC to protect marine wildlife and ecosystems by continuing the ban on dangerous fishing practices.
Dear Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,
I support the continued ban on dangerous fishing practices in accordance with Florida’s Constitutional ban on all nets in fishing, except hand thrown cast nets.
The current litigation before the 1st District Court of Appeals regarding the possible lifting of the gill net ban provides you, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWS), with an ideal scenario in which to amend your regulations to coincide with the more robust and appropriate ban laid out in the Florida Constitution. The FWS exceptions have endangered the marine species you are tasked with protecting in two important ways. First, by creating contradictory regulations, you have brought about the possibility, which has recently come close to fruition, that a court could invalidate the ban altogether because of potential and real confusion regarding enforcement. Second, commercial fishermen in compliance with the FWS exceptions have begun to use even more deadly netting equipment, particularly the seine net.
Barring a ruling by the judge that invalidates your own regulations, which would be a strange argument on appeal, the most obvious way to protect fish populations and ecosystem destruction from deadly netting equipment is to amend your own regulations.
Please take decisive action during this urgent time: amend your regulations to further support Florida’s marine wildlife and ecosystems by adopting a ban consistent with the Florida Constitution.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pedro Ramirez Jr., via Wikipedia