Florida fisheries officials back away from controversial legislation

Published on
September 16, 2016

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission addressed the controversial Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act at its most recent meeting on 8 September, agreeing to withdraw support for it if it affected the state’s commercial fishing industry in any way.

The bill, formally known as H.R. 3094, has been approved by the House Committee on Natural Resources and awaits a potential vote by the full body of the U.S. House of Representatives. It would extend Southern states’ control over federal waters and establish a new management authority to replace the oversight of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission manages and regulates the state’s fish and wildlife resources. It is composed of seven commissioners appointed by the governor of Florida and confirmed by the state senate to five-year terms. The commission discussed H.R. 3094 for about 20 to 30 minutes at its 8 September meeting, according to the commission’s public information specialist Amanda Nalley.

About a dozen commercial fishermen testified to the commission against H.R. 3094, Nalley said, all of whom discussed the potential harm that the bill may cause their businesses. The commission also received letters from U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, U.S. Rep. David W. Jolly and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, expressing concern about the ramifications of the legislation.

In response, the commission asked its staff to draft a letter to Congress explaining it would not support the bill if it contained language that would affect Florida’s commercial fishing industry, Nalley said.

“The commission did also express a strong desire to continue to have a seat at the table in the discussion of this [bill],” she said.

In response, the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, a group representing commercial red snapper fishermen, issued a statement applauding the commission’s actions at the meeting.

“We are extremely proud of the commission’s leadership and commitment to Florida’s fishermen and seafood industry,” said Eric Brazer, the organization’s deputy director. “By agreeing to withdraw their support of this unnecessary and unfunded mandate if it continues to impact commercial fishermen, our state leaders have sent a strong message to the men and women who provide red snapper to the American public and own small businesses in Florida’s seafood industry that hurting commercial fishermen isn’t the right way to help private anglers.”

A video of the meeting can be seen here: http://thefloridachannel.org/videos/9816-florida-fish-wildlife-conservation-commission-part-2-1010/

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