The FWC will implement changes to the regulations governing the fishing for Tarpon at its September 1st meeting. This will be the culmination of a multi-year process that involved FWC scientists, public outreach, and the commission meetings themselves.
A great deal of credit needs to go to Kenneth Wright the present chairman of the commission. Ken will retire from the commission at its September meeting and his voice will be missed by everyone concerned with the preservation and protection of Florida wildlife in general and with Florida’s truly extraordinary fishery in specific.
KeysKeeper participated in this effort in several ways.
Part of the effort in adopting new regulations is a set of meetings conducted throughout the state as a public outreach effort. FWC staff uses these meetings to gather comment and to anticipate problems with the proposed regulations. For these new Tarpon regulations, the most potentially controversial issue was the impact that minimal handling requirements would have on tournaments.
The Lower Keys Guides Association quickly adopted a stance that supported the new minimal handling requirements. KeysKeeper provided transportation for guides to the public meeting in Marathon (the meeting was held during prime fishing season). Representatives from KeysKeeper also attended the public meeting and spoke in support.
There were, in addition, two commission meetings – one in Tallahassee; one in Lakeland. The entire board of directors of KeysKeeper flew to Tallahassee for the meeting to adopt draft language (again held in prime fishing time). And two of the directors drove to Lakeland for the meeting to adopt the draft language and pass the new regulations. At both of these meetings, KeysKeeper people spoke for the Lower Keys Guides Association as well as for itself.
As in the case of Permit regulations, KeysKeeper joined Aaron Adams from BTT, and several other interested organizations in those meetings.
The New Regulations are as follows:
- All harvest of tarpon will be eliminated with a the exception of a Tarpon Tag at $50
- Tarpon tags allow the transport or shipment of tarpon in pursuit of an I.G.F.A record but, are limited to 1 fish per year with a 1 fish per vessel limit
- Tarpon are allowed for temporary possession for photography, measurement of length and girth, and scientific sampling with the stipulation of any fish over 40″ must remain in the water
- Gear for Tarpon are restricted to hook and line only at all times of the year
- All Tarpon regulations apply in both State and Federal water
- Tarpon cannot be dragged, gaffed, or roped.
There are additional efforts that now can be brought to bear in expanding the protection of Tarpon.
1. Tarpon do not get the same level of protection in other states that they now get in Florida. In Louisiana they can be spear fished. Protections need to be extended to these states and their Federal waters.
2. Tarpon can be raised to yet a higher level of protection by making them a Federally protected game fish. Once that is accomplished, we need to extend those protections to other places in the world where Tarpon exist.
3. The FWC has sent a letter to the IGFA requesting that that organization reexamine its standards for setting records so that new records can be set without the need to kill the fish. If the IGFA will adopt such standards, then Tarpon can be made simply catch and release; no kill tags.
4. A continuing discussion is required to make tournaments as minimally invasive and damaging to Tarpon as possible. Tournaments should be taking the lead in minimizing the amount of time that a Tarpon can be “played” after hooking and in protecting Tarpon from the most damaging practices involved in getting the fish to the boat.
5. More work needs to be done to ensure that we are protecting the food sources and environment that Tarpon need to thrive.