FLORIDA GULF GAG GROUPER CLOSURES CONTINUE

Florida FishingThe Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recently announced that it is going to change how gag and red grouper are managed in Gulf of Mexico state waters.

The changes include additional protections for gag grouper while increasing the bag limit for red grouper. FWC says these further changes will make state protections consistent with gag and red grouper federal rules in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We are listening and are very concerned about the economy, jobs and managing resources for longevity as well,” Commissioner Ron Bergeron said following stakeholder conversation.

Changes for red grouper will take effect December 23 in Gulf of Mexico state waters (excluding Monroe County) and will include increasing the recreational bag limit from two to four fish.

Commissioners voted to continue the current gag grouper closure in Gulf of Mexico state waters (excluding Monroe County) into 2012. The closure was set to expire at the end of 2011.

This measure will help the state achieve consistency with gag grouper management efforts affecting federal Gulf waters, FWC says.

The FWC believes applying the same recreational open and closed harvest seasons for gag grouper in Gulf state waters as in federal offshore waters would maximize fishing opportunities for anglers and charter boat operators along Florida's Gulf coast. Since these closures have taken place, however, many charter captains in the Panhandle have lost numerous trips. The closures have put a damper on the local fishing industry and many anglers believe the decisions being made are based on bad science and that gag grouper populations are actually rebounding.

Federal managers are currently working on a plan to further protect gag grouper, which it claims is "overfished and undergoing overfishing in the Gulf." The FWC will revisit state gag grouper management efforts in February 2012, once federal rules are solidified.

For more information visit MyFWC.com/Commission and click on “Commission Meetings” and “Agenda.”