Score one for the Sunshine State’s marine resources. Florida’s inshore net ban — the one approved by 73 percent of voters way back in 1994 — has survived the latest, and possibly the most egregious assault on this constitutional amendment.
As we reported on Nov. 5, Circuit Court Judge Jackie Lee Fulford dismissed the net ban’s 2-inch stretched mesh limit as a “legal absurdity” and ruled in late October that the use of mesh size could not be used to define the difference between an illegal gill net and a legal seine net.
Judge Fulford’s ruling suspended the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation’s ability to enforce the net ban and, according to Coastal Conservation Association’s Florida chapter, hordes of netters with previously illegal gear quickly invaded state waters. Fortunately, expedient work on the part of Florida Attorney General Pam Biondi’s office put the kibosh on that nonsense.
Sparing you the legalese, we’ll bottom-line it by saying that after hearing the FWC’s petition on Nov. 6, the 1st District Court of Appeals reinstated a procedural stay on Judge Fulford’s ruling. Essentially, this means that the Florida net ban is again enforceable. More importantly, it paves the path for FWC and CCA Florida’s efforts to get Judge Fulford’s ruling on net size reversed.
“This ruling is a step in the right direction, but the fight is far from over,” said CCA Florida Chairman Jim Williams. “There is a much larger battle ahead. We need to stay focused on this issue and make sure it is put to bed once and for all.”