Tag Archives: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Stone crab season to open, race to place traps begins

Stone crab season opens Oct. 15 and crabbers are permitted to drop traps 10 days in advance. Cortez fisher Brian Lacey and his crew wasted no time Oct. 5, the first day traps were allowed in the water, putting their first load out in the Gulf of Mexico at midnight. “The longer the soak period, the better the catch, typically, for stone crabs,” Lacey said Oct. 5. In 400-trap increments, the 7-year commercial fisher aimed to drop 2,700 traps within a 40-mile area in a four-day span. >click to read< 08:47

Spiny lobster season kicks off amid an unexplained population drop

The Caribbean spiny lobster commercial fishery in Florida average more than 5 million pounds per year,,, Valued at more than $40 million, the spiny lobster fishery is the second most lucrative commercial fishery in the state, behind shrimp.,, Since the 1990s, the population of the Caribbean spiny lobster has decreased 20%, which matters, not only to fisheries and spiny lobsters, but also to the entire food chain of Florida’s waters. “They’re a main food item for every other organism in the Florida Keys. Everything wants to eat little lobsters from snapper, grouper, even some herons. Matthews said while the American lobster is a “mean, nasty animal” not afraid to “fight to the death,” the Caribbean spiny lobsters are just the opposite. “They love to be in groups. They defend each other, and they are very social animals. >click to read< 12:04

More Florida manatees died in 2021 compared to any other year

There have more manatee deaths so far this year in Florida compared to any other year in the state’s recorded history. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports 841 manatees have died through July 2, topping the previous record of 830 deaths that were recorded in all of 2013. That occurred following a red tide outbreak,,, This year, the FWC says, there has been “unprecedented manatee mortality due to starvation.” video, >click to read< 15;04

Commercial fisherman frustrated by red tide fish kills destroying his livelihood

Dead fish by the thousands are causing a smelly mess in the water and on the shorelines around parts of Tampa Bay. Commercial fisherman David Gill was shocked when he first saw it Monday morning near the mouth of the Alafia River. “I wanted to scream and rip my hair out because I watched my livelihood die right in front of me,” says Gill, who has been fishing these waters since he was a boy. For years, Gill and other fishermen have traveled miles to get away from red tide, which he believes is exacerbated by pollution, including the release from Piney Point. He’s angry about it. video, >click to read< 10:59

Jacksonville: Coast Guard suspends search for missing crab fisherman near Buckman Bridge, Man identified

The Coast Guard suspended the search Friday for a man who went missing after reportedly falling overboard a 30-foot fishing vessel near Buckman Bridge south of Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Thursday. Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office received a report at 7:57 a.m. of a 30-foot commercial fishing vessel unmanned and running in circles near the southside of the Buckman Bridge. >click to read< 19:31

Missing boater identified -The missing boater in a multi-agency search has been identified as 20-year-old Michael Vaughn III, who disappeared after falling overboard from a 30-foot commercial fishing vessel near the Buckman Bridge Thursday morning. >click to read<

Florida: One month into stone crab season, and there’s good news from the docks and markets

Fishermen are reporting a strong supply while markets and restaurants are saying customer demand is just as promising. “It’s been an outstanding season so far,” said Kelly Kirk, owner of Kirk Fish Company.  For customers, that means good news: Prices have held steady compared to last year. And large claws, usually more elusive, have been especially abundant, Kirk said.  The strong landings come despite new restrictions imposed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission aimed at protecting the stone crab population after years of declining harvests. Kirk said those declines aren’t being seen this season. “We’re seeing the opposite of that, actually,” Kirk said. “Had COVID not hit and the whole market turned upside down (last year), we probably would have broken records as far as production. >click to read< 10:34

Three New Calves! North Atlantic Right Whale calving season is now underway

Right whales are an endangered species that usually migrate south along the Georgia and Florida coastline to give birth to their calves. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced over the weekend that calving season is now underway and lasts through March. In the 2020 calving season, there were 10 calves born, which was up from seven in the 2019 season. Despite the increase in calves, the species is still endangered. In the 2020 calving season, there were 10 calves born, which was up from seven in the 2019 season.>click to read< 15:27

Three jailed after being caught with 109 undersized lobsters, out of season stone crab claws in the Keys

Three Lower Keys residents were jailed Friday after state fish and wildlife police said they were found with more than 100 undersized lobsters and a haul of out-of-season stone crab claws. Many of the crab claws were also undersized, police said. Rigoberto Morales, 52, of Stock Island, was the captain on the ESPY vessel, which was headed into shore near Stock Island carrying the illegal catch when officers on patrol decided to check their catch, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Two crew members, Charles William Rahming, 27, of Key West, and Arlem Silva, 34, were also booked into the Stock Island Detention Center along with Morales on a number of charges. >click to read< 13:38

After Proposing A Five-Week Cut, Florida Cuts Stone Crab Season By Two Weeks

After originally threatening to shorten the stone crab season by five weeks, the commission conceded to complaints in a virtually held meeting on Wednesday and shortened the season by only two weeks, with a new end date of May 1. The new rules go into effect Oct. 1. The commission finalized its rules after hosting a series of virtual workshops since June with industry stakeholders, who widely criticized the agency’s original proposals. On Wednesday, commissioners acknowledged that the new rules, even with a May 1 end of season, would succeed in keeping more than 300,000 pounds of stone crabs from being harvested, which should surpass the agency’s goal of saving 1 million pounds of stone crabs from harvest over a five-year period. >click to read< 07:58

“I’m in fear of my livelihood,” “They really don’t listen to us.” Florida shortens stone crab season over industry objections

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the shortened season and other new limits are necessary to sustain Florida stone crabs,,,    The agency’s scientists said many crabs don’t survive their claws being removed, and crabs have been overharvested since the late 1990s. Its data, challenged as inaccurate by the industry, showed the fewest pounds of stone crab claws harvested since 1986 during the season that ended last year.  Wholesale claw prices in some areas have tanked from low demand, as diners avoid restaurants and consumers reduce spending amid concerns about the economy. The commission said Gov. Ron DeSantis may reduce the amount of money crabbers must pay for next season’s trap certificates as part of a crab-industry bailout related to the virus. >click to read or listen< 15:14

Florida Man Sentenced for Killing Endangered Sawfish

Chad Ponce, a 38-year old commercial fisherman, is facing 2 years probation, 80 hours of community service and a $2,000 fine for killing an endangered smalltooth sawfish. A judge determined this sentence on December 19, 2019, after a joint investigation by NOAA Fisheries and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) confirmed Ponce used a power saw to cut the rostrum (saw or bill) off of the live fish before discarding its body back into the ocean. >click to read< 08:35

Florida Keys Fisherman Can’t Dip A Toe In Keys Waters For Five Years

A commercial fisherman in the Florida Keys has been sentenced in a case involving undersized lobster. The sentence also keeps him out of the water for quite some time. Alfredo Gonzalez was the captain of the lobster boat Perseverance when Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers stopped the vessel off the Gulf side of Marathon on Jan. 13, 2018.  >click to read< 11:51

The mullet are runnin’

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Cortez. Around this time of year, the mullet run in local waters and commercial fishers give chase. “The mullet run is a term used to describe the spawning migration,”,, Like other fish from rivers, estuaries and bays, mullet congregate and then run in schools to offshore environments to complete the spawning cycle. John Banyas, owner of Swordfish Grill & Tiki Bar, N.E. Taylor Boatworks, Killer Bait and the Cortez Bait and Seafood fish house on the waterfront in Cortez, says this year’s run is “better than last year.” >click to read< 13:40

Net ban at 25: Still stings, still opposed

Red tide, blue-green algae, global warming, sea rise, sewage spills and oil spills combined don’t antagonize commercial fishermen as much as one single, 25-year-old subject. On election day in 1994, Florida voters passed a state constitutional amendment banning Florida commercial fishermen from using gill nets. The law made any commercial fisherman in the state an outlaw who used a gill net to catch mullet, as fishing families had done for generations. >click to read< 08:30

Hit-or-miss hauls end another unpredictable Florida stone crab season

“We knew guys who were fishing 500 traps and would catch less than six or seven pounds,” Gandy said. “Lots of (crabbers) just didn’t do it this year.” Meanwhile, those crabbing to the north, from around New Port Richey to the panhandle, saw some giant hauls, especially early in the season, which started in October. The director of one commercial fishing association described Florida’s season overall as “pretty disastrous,” unless you were between Hudson and Crystal River where “they were breaking records.” “What’s crazy is the rest of the world had a horrible crab season,” >click to read<12:57

FWC: Man selling bait without license jumped in water during arrest near Fort DeSoto

A St. Petersburg man is facing several charges after officers say he jumped off a boat to resist being arrested by state wildlife officials. Officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were out near Fort DeSoto and Bunce’s Pass Saturday when the incident happened. According to an arrest report, the officers were trying to conduct a commercial fisheries inspection involving 39-year-old Ryan Rauch. >click to read<10:49

Florida Digests Worst Stone Crab Season In Decade

Florida’s worst stone crab season in recent memory closed last week marked by a lower-than-normal catch of the flaky, sweet crustaceans in many parts of the state and higher prices for consumers. Co-owner Stephen Sawitz of the iconic Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach, which recently celebrated its 105th season, said his business felt the pinch all season long.,,, Joe’s is a good barometer of the industry,,, Rich Tradition, Red Tide, Frozen Vs. Fresh, New Crab On Menu, >Video, click to read<16:07

Fake lobster-tag case leads to arrests in Florida Keys

Florida fisheries investigators have made at least two arrests following a long inquiry into the sale of counterfeit lobster trap tags required by law for commercial anglers to do business in the state. The suspected ringleader is a Palmetto Bay woman who is the registered agent of more than 50 active and inactive commercial fishing operations in Florida. She was arrested Monday in the Florida Keys on racketeering and fraud charges. Elena P. Reyes, 67, is being held in Monroe County jail on a total bond of $892,500. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators also arrested Michael Enrique Sanchez,

Florida Shrimp Boat Deck-Hand Arrested For Undersized Lobster Tails

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, officers boarded the commercial shrimp boat Three Princess off Key West on November 28. While onboard, the officers found three large sacks of spiny lobster hidden beneath sacks of shrimp in the below-deck freezer. In total, there were 101 spiny lobster, and 33 of them were undersized. A deck-hand admitted to harvesting all of the lobster, without the other deck-hands knowledge. The crewmember was arrested and booked into the Monroe County Detention facility on numerous misdemeanor charges. >click to read<09:29

Nearly 300 Sea Turtles Dead as Red Tide Plagues Southwest Florida

Hundreds of sea turtles have washed up dead along the southwest Florida coast as an ongoing red tide event persists in the waters. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has logged 287 sea turtle deaths since the virulent algal bloom started in October, the Associated Press reported. That figure is twice the average number of turtle deaths in those waters each year, Allen Foley of the commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute told the AP on Thursday.  Foley explained that the turtles get sick and die when their food gets contaminated by toxic bloom. >click to read<19:09

Environmental Citations Issued For Boat Captain During NOAA Environmental Research Cruise

The captain of a charter boat carrying government scientists on an environmental research cruise near the Keys has been cited for violating environmental regulations. The Ultimate Getaway is a 100-foot charter boat that takes people to the remote Tortugas, west of Key West, for diving and spearfishing trips. This month, it was chartered by the federal government for the Coral Reef Monitoring Program research cruise, which surveys reef and fish in Florida every other year. The FWC patrol saw the Ultimate Getaway at anchor inside the reserve. When they came alongside, they saw fishing poles and gear on the vessel’s stern, according to the FWC report. >click to read<11:19

11 shark fins, dismembered sharks found aboard boat near South Sound Creek

The U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission personnel seized 11 shark fins and dismembered sharks Monday that were found aboard a 40-foot commercial fishing boat near South Sound Creek, Coast Guard officials announced Tuesday in a news release.  Authorities said an FWC officer first spotted the boat, dubbed Miss Shell, off South Sound Creek because of its improper display of navigation lights.  Authorities said they found 11 shark fins and dismembered sharks aboard the boat. The boat was then escorted to Port Largo. The catch was seized and handed over to NOAA officials Tuesday. >click to read<16:15

Keys lobstermen catch a break, traps get a $1 per-trap tag waiver

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, every dollar saved helps, say Florida Keys commercial fishermen. Untold thousands of spiny-lobster traps, the primary gear in the most economically significant Keys seafood harvest, disappeared or were destroyed by the Category 4 storm in September. The statewide lobster industry based in the Keys will get a bit of a break in the 2018 season that opens in August. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at its December meeting agreed to waive for one season the annual $1 per-trap tag fee for the allowed 473,500 traps in the lobster fishery. >click here to read< 13:44

Commercial fishing captain accused of dumping dozens of traps

A Florida Keys commercial fishing captain was arrested on felony commercial littering charges this week after investigators say he illegally dumped more than 30 lobster traps along the reef that police considered evidence in an ongoing investigation. Ricardo Hernandez, 53, was booked on 31 counts of commercial dumping and 31 counts of evidence tampering Thursday following a two-years-long investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. >click here to read< 11:35

Florida: Fishery agency floats commercial bullynet plan

Since Florida has created new rules on commercial harvest of spiny lobster by bullynetters, a federal marine fishery agency wants to hear thoughts on extending the gear regulations beyond state waters. Staff with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council will hold online webinars Monday and Tuesday to outline a draft proposal to federal rules that could resolve “inconsistencies between state of Florida spiny-lobster regulations and those in federal waters off the coast of Florida….”click here to read the story 09:41

FWC Charges 3 in ‘Disturbing’ Shark-Dragging Incident

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office announced charges against three individuals connected to the video of a shark being dragged behind a boat at high speed. The individuals charged are Michael Wenzel, Robert Lee Benac, Spencer Heintz. The charges resulted from a four-month investigation into the video and other disturbing images on social media “involving shocking disregard for Florida’s natural resources,” Rob Klepper, public information coordinator of FWC’s Law Enforcement Division,,, click here to read the story 09:47

Where have the stone crabs gone? Shortage of Florida delicacy drives up prices

Less than halfway through Florida’s lucrative stone crab season, traps are drying up, dealing another blow to a fishing industry still recovering from a beating delivered by a brutal Hurricane Irma. “Everybody’s feeling it,” said Walter Flores, owner of the Golden Rule Seafood in Palmetto Bay, which has been selling and serving stone crabs since 1943. Normally Flores starts taking orders for holiday crabs about now. But this year, he said, it’s first come, first serve.  “We have them,” he said, “but you have to offer more money to get them. It’s almost a bidding war.” click here to read the story 09:00

Florida Keys seafood industry begins gear recovery after Hurricane Irma

To find the lobster, Florida Keys commercial fishers must first track down gear scattered or destroyed by Hurricane Irma. “Just like on shore, the underwater has patterns of destruction,” Bill Kelly, executive director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association, said Thursday. “Some areas have suffered major devastation, really hard hit,” he said. “Other areas are not so bad.” One large Middle Keys family operation estimates having lost 6,000 traps, Kelly said. click here to read the story 11:00

Trap fishermen, industry suffers record loses from Irma

Conch Key commercial fisherman Gary Nichols scoured the Atlantic Ocean for seven hours on Monday and only found 15 of his 5,000 spiny lobster traps. Fellow Conch Key fishermen Jeff Kramer was only able to locate a handful of his 2,000 traps he had placed in the Atlantic. Both are hoping that ones in the Gulf of Mexico fared better. Nichols’ daughter Kelly Cordova Nichols was able to locate 160 of the family’s 1,500 traps in the bay. Nichols and his daughter are also working with two boats that were damaged by Hurricane Irma and are “not properly operating.” “I feel a little bit defeated,” Nichols said. “It’s hard to keep focused and have a firm belief in God and happiness right now. click here to read the story 16:05

Trap-tag counts lodged against Lower Keys fisherman

A Lower Keys lobster fisherman was arrested Thursday on counts of using unlicensed traps, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports. Jeromy Roy Homerston, 42, of Stock Island booked on 29 counts of using a trap without a state-issued tag, and two other conservation counts.  All the charges are misdemeanors. Homerston was later released pending court action. According to the FWC, Homerston was running the commercial boat Ol’ Skool that was stopped for catch inspection by state and federal marine officers aboard the patrol vessel Interceptor, working near the Eastern Sambos reef south of Key West. click here to read the story 11:07