Proposed Fishing Net Ban Stirring Up Controversy

Local Rep. Will Kendrick filed a bill Tuesday, and if passed it could forever change the commercial fishing industry in Florida.

Fishermen along Florida's Gulf Coast are fed up.

Marvin Thomas, a mullet fisherman, says, “Let me tell you something. We ain't leaving boys, we'll see you in a court of law because we ain't leaving.”

They claim a net ban passed by voters over a decade ago is forcing them out of work.

Richard Vanmunster, a commercial fisherman, says, “If it's a big net, it's a gill net, if it's small it's not a gill net, it's insanity, all nets are gill.”

The problem they say lies in the language of the law. Currently, the state allows two-inch mesh size or smaller, but local fishermen say that's exactly what's killing the population.

Fishermen say dozens of baby mullet are gilled and killed in just one catch, twice as many as the profitable mature mullet.

Henry Cabbage, Florida Fish and Wildlife spokesman, says, "We've always been in favor of commercial fishermen, but the resource is not inexhaustible."

But one state representative claims the scientific data doesn't support FWC's two-inch mesh rule.

State Rep. Will Kendrick says, “They've pushed fishermen into killing juvenile fish which has affected spawning ratios, fish count.”

To prove his point he's drafted House Bill 74, legalizing 500-square-foot nets regardless of their mesh size. A small step in a meticulous process, but a huge leap to heal Florida's fishing industry.

Rep. Kendrick hopes this move will help FWC commissioners better define what constitutes a legal net. We'll let you know if the bill sinks or swims during session.