The present fishing regulations governing Permit have several elements that differ from those that existed prior to June 2011. Some of these elements seem so obvious to people who fish for this specie that they may escape notice. Nonetheless these new features of the regulatory landscape set the stage for further steps to protect and husband Trachinotus falcatus as the linchpin species of flats fishing in Florida.
1.) Permit are regulated as a separate species from Florida Pompano and African Pompano. Prior to the new regulations, Permit were included with these two other species and fell under the same regulations.
Florida Pompano is a food fish and important to the commercial interests particularly in Northern Florida. This left Permit in the dangerous position of existing within the same regulatory framework as a commercial species.
Further, the growth and spawning characteristics of Permit and Florida Pompano differ greatly. For instance, these two fish reach maturity and are able to spawn at different sizes. Pompano reach maturity at somewhere between 11 inches and 15 inches; Permit need to be much larger – more than 20 inches.
2.) The new regulations extend to Federal waters. Prior to June of 2011, there were no regulations governing the take of Permit in Federal waters. There were restrictions in some special areas governed by Sanctuary rules and the like, but otherwise, there were no protections at all.
Permit are now regulated in Federal waters off of Florida. The FWC took advantage of the fact that a state is allowed to extend its regulations to Federal waters in the case where there are no existing Federal regulations in effect.
3.) Perhaps the most important feature of the June 2011 regulations is that they expressly state that no directed commercial harvest of Permit allowed. There is a by catch allowance of up to 100 fish per day, but even that is not allowed in the Special Permit Zone.
4.) The new regulations create a Special Permit Zone. The SPZ includes state and federal waters south of Cape Florida in the Atlantic, and south of Cape Sable in the Gulf.
Within the SPZ there is no catch of Permit under 22 inches allowed and no catch of any Permit allowed in the months of May, June and July (months that Permit are thought to spawn). The only taking allowed is in the months of August to April and that is limited to 1 fish per harvester per day.
5.) In the waters other than the SPZ, the limits are greater and there is no closure during the spawn months. There is a limit of 2 Permit per person; they must be within 11 inches to 22 inches with only one allowed to be greater than 22 inches and a vessel limit of only 2 Permit over 22 inches.