Florida Court Reinstates Coastal Ban on Gillnets

Just hours after the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) blasted Leon County Circuit judge Jackie Fulford for overturning the voter-approved, constitutionally protected Florida net ban, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) sent official notification to all law enforcement personnel that enforcement of the net ban would officially resume.

“Late this afternoon, the First District Court of Appeals reinstated the automatic stay in the net limitation lawsuit,” said Colonel Calvin L. Adams, Jr. in a Wednesday letter, adding “the FWC is no longer prohibited from enforcing the net limitation amendment or associated statutes and rules.”

The latest ruling in the District Court of Appeal, First District in Tessellate, a motion for reinstatement of an automatic stay filed by FWC was reinstated putting the net ban back into place in Florida.

“We should all be aware that this continues to be a sensitive issue,” Col. Adams noted in his letter. “With the First District Court of Appeals overruling the Circuit Judge’s most recent order there is great potential for confusion among fishermen and other members of the public. FWC’s standard of excellence through the exercise of fair and impartial judgment is expected in all interactions.”

“Officers should use ample discretion and seek to educate any fishermen that may have misinformation or be unclear on the current circumstances,” said Col. Adams, adding “in situations where that might not be sufficient, use the appropriate skills acquired through your training and education to enforce the law.”

The FWC also noted that the appellate process is still ongoing and further action from the First District Court of Appeals is expected in the future.

For now though, Florida anglers are breathing a sigh of relief given that gillnets are once again illegal in the state of Florida.

“We should all be sending a big thanks to the FWC for getting this net ban thing reversed,” said Capt. Tom Adams of RFA-FL and Mexico Beach charter boat captain. “They jumped right on it, big thanks to Nick Wiley and everyone there at the FWC.”

RFA executive director Jim Donofrio, who on Wednesday called Judge Fulford’s ruling to overturn the net ban “completely reckless,” said today that the debate over gillnets will undoubtedly continue in the coming days. “Members of the commercial sector are pushing hard through legal and legislative channels to increase the mesh size of their nets from 2 inches to 3 inches in an effort they say will allow more juvenile fish to swim free through the mesh.”

“There’s a big difference between trying to get an inch and actually taking a mile,” Donofrio noted, while pledging that RFA would continue to monitor the situation through its RFA Florida chapters.