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    Florida FWC to Meet April 17-18 Near Tallahassee

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will meet April 17-18 to discuss an array of issues, ranging from marine fisheries and upland wildlife management and harvest issues to boating safety, staff reports and enhancing the public’s ability to help control the invasive lionfish.

    Sessions start both days at 8:30 a.m. at the Florida Public Safety Institute, 85 Academy Drive, Havana, FL 32333 (www.floridapsi.com). The Institute is located west of the city of Midway on US 90.

    The meeting is open to the public, and all interested individuals may speak within guidelines established by the Commission.

    Marine issues dominate the first day, after a representative of the Wildlife Foundation of Florida presents the annual Louise Ireland Humphrey Employee of the Year Award to FWC Assistant Executive Director Greg Holder.

    When the Commission takes up marine fisheries issues April 17, it will start with a final public hearing on the Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper season. The proposed season would be open June 1 through July 14.

    The Commissioners will then discuss a draft rule that proposes format standardization and reorganization for several marine fisheries rules in Florida Administrative Code 68B, as well as the creation of a new General chapter that will include a series of definitions and general regulations that would be applied to all saltwater fishing.

    In a draft rule hearing, the Commissioners will discuss a proposal to eliminate the requirement for a recreational fishing license when targeting lionfish with certain gear and to have no recreational or commercial harvest limit. Additionally, the Commission will consider a proposal to make tarpon and bonefish catch-and-release-only species, and review and discuss gear use for tarpon in Boca Grande Pass.

    At the request of the Collier County Board of Commissioners, the Commission will also discuss in a draft rule hearing the repeal of two Special Acts of Local Application that prohibit spearing or gigging with artificial light and spearing in state waters off the county shoreline.

    The Commission will end the marine fisheries section with a staff update on South Atlantic Fishery Management Council actions and discussions.

    On Thursday April 18, Commissioners will welcome a representative of the Shikar-Safari Club International to present the Officer of the Year Award to FWC Officer Bryan Fugate.

    Following Executive Director Nick Wiley’s presentation of the Executive Director’s Report, the Commissioners will consider creating a Private Lands Deer Management Permit program that would better meet the needs of landowners and leaseholders, giving them greater flexibility in herd and harvest management while promoting conservation and hunting heritage efforts. This voluntary program would apply to land parcels large enough to implement herd and wildlife management.

    Next, Commissioners will consider proposed revisions to gopher tortoise permitting guidelines that are based on stakeholder input and designed to be consistent with the updated Gopher Tortoise Management Plan approved in September 2012. Other proposed improvements to the permitting guidelines include ensuring adequate funding for long-term management of gopher tortoise recipient sites, providing guidelines for capture of tortoises for relocation when using a backhoe, and establishing criteria to suspend, revoke or not renew an authorized gopher tortoise agent permit.

    FWC staff will then present draft rules on changes to localized boating-restricted zones in Broward and Pinellas counties.

    After staff reports, the public can comment on items not on the agenda. The next regular Commission meeting will be June 11-13 in Lakeland, commencing at 8:30 a.m. each day.

    Logo courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

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