Florida’s fishing industry is one of the largest in the country and that includes fishing tourism. A new study shows the tourism has an almost 5-billion dollar economic impact in the state . . .

This didn’t “just happen’ organically.  Anglers stood up and stood tall to be counted. They campaigned, they lobbied, they coughed up the financial resources to fight commercial overfishing in the courts. The ran petitions, and more petitions. They engaged with the entire program of fisheries management and at every opportunity had their say.

Here is a brief snap shot of their history:

 

1985 The Florida Conservation Association (FCA) becomes the fifth state chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association.

1986 FCA successfully intervenes in lawsuits filed by commercial interests opposing Spanish mackerel recovery plans. CCA National is successful in stopping purse seining of spawning redfish in the Gulf of Mexico.

1987 FCA merges with the Everglades Protection Association. FCA joins with CCA in efforts to bring about a management plan to protect billfish from longliners.

1988 FCA wins a four year battle to achieve gamefish status for Florida’s depleted redfish stocks. Redfish becomes the first species since 1957 to be removed from Florida’s market. U.S. Secretary of Commerce signs FCA-supported management plan for billfish, marking the first time federal authorities have declared a gamefish in federal waters.

FCA successfully promotes passage of legislation to protect tarpon by preventing unnecessary killing and encouraging catch and release. The new law requires the purchase of a 50 dollar tag in order to harvest a tarpon.

1989 FCA achieves major legislative victory establishing the first recreational saltwater fishing license in Florida with license revenues protected and directed to marine fisheries management, research and law enforcement.

1990 FCA plays a major role as the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council bans drift gill nets.

1991 FCA is instrumental in persuading the South Atlantic Council to ban fish traps from Florida’s east coast federal waters.

1992 The Save our Sealife Committee (S.O.S.) is formed to initiate a constitutional amendment petition drive to limit marine net fishing in Florida state waters. FCA members take the lead in collecting a national record 201,000 petitions in a single day.

1993 FCA legal action results in the establishment of a purse seine netting sanctuary in the entire Tampa Bay coastal region to protect and restore commercially-devastated forage fish stocks.

1994 More than 550,000 petitions are collected to put the S.O.S. Amendment on the Florida state ballot. The Amendment is approved by Florida’s voters by a 72 percent margin.

1995 FCA intervenes in four lawsuits to help the State of Florida defend the S.O.S. Amendment from commercial industry lawsuits. FCA leads the fight against the introduction of damaging bottom-dragging trawls for finfish leading to a rule banning the gear. Florida’s Governor and Cabinet approve an FCA-backed seatrout restoration plan that limits commercial fishing and implements more restrictive recreational limits.

1996 As a result of an FCA Special Report on poaching, the legislature passes a bill increasing fines and penalties and closing several loopholes in fishery laws. FCA also focuses statewide attention on the “tarp scam nets,” and successfully supports a law mandating by-catch reduction devices on all shrimp trawls in the N.E. Florida region. The FCA board votes to change the organisation’s name from “Florida Conservation Association” to “Coastal Conservation Association Florida.”

FCA is instrumental in getting the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council to enact a 10 year phase out to ban fish traps from Florida’s west coast federal waters.

1997 With strong CCA Florida backing, the Florida legislature enacts a major fishery conservation act that codifies the MFC’s authority to enforce the net ban, outlaws tarp “scam” nets, and imposes tougher penalties on repeat violators. The state and CCA Florida also win a major three-year legal battle when the Florida Supreme Court rejects commercial industry arguments and finds the net ban constitutional.

 

And now they’re reaping the rewards. Apart from anglers, the businesses supplying anglers with their boats, their bait, their tackle, their chandlery  etc. etc are also reaping large rewards.

Might the sea angling community across Europe – anglers and tackle trade – ever wake up and do something similar? We need to, we deserve just as much say in the decision making. And we can certainly provide a more sustainable use of the resource and provide revenue for a wider cross-section of the community.