Judge Sees Effects Of Net Ban Firsthand

By: Eyewitness News Email
By: Eyewitness News Email

September 14, 2012

Wakulla County, FL - Judge Jackie Fulford wanted to see first hand how the fish nets work. On Friday morning, three boats launched from the St. Mark's Boat Ramp.

Judge Fulford and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were in one boat and members of the Wakulla Commercial Fisherman's Association were in another. The fishermen claim they can't make a living with the 2 inch net required by law.

"I hope it comes out what has happened to this industry and how there's nobody coming behind. I'm probably one of the youngest fisherman in Wakulla County," said Keith Ward, one of the fishermen participating in Friday's trip.

Fulford announced on Monday her plans to hit the water. Fishermen claim adult mullet are too big to get into the two inch nets.
They say a three inch gill net regulation will solve the problem.

"On a good day we'll catch maybe a couple hundred pounds of good keeper fish. And we will throw back, maybe three times that of juvenile fish," said Ward.

On Friday, fish were hard to find. During the two and half hour trip, only two full-sized mullet were caught. The rest were juveniles.

Residents came out on Friday to show their support of the fishermen's struggle.

"We don't have enough shrimp coming, not enough fish coming in and all that stuff. It's impacting everyone here," said Denise Savoie, a resident in St. Mark's.

Fishermen say the killing of baby fish is affecting the overall population. A larger net will allow the smaller fish to escape.

"It's been a tremendous impact here. The fishing industry is almost gone in this county," said Rod Strickland, a Wakulla County resident.

Despite the small catch, the fishermen say they think the trip helped prove their point.

An official decision on the case isn't expected for at least a few more weeks.


September 10, 2012

Leon County, Florida - The battle over fishing net regulations has taken a new twist. It's been an issue fishermen in Wakulla County have been fighting since 1994.

This case is moving out of the court room and on to the open waters.
Judge Jackie Fulford has been overseeing the Wakulla County Fisherman's case. They hope to have the 2 inch gill net regulation overturned, and a 3 inch regulation put in place.

After a hearing on August 30th, Fulford said she wanted to go out onto the waters and see first hand how the nets work. The fishermen claim the 2 inch nets are causing the unnecessary catch and killing of non-targeted and baby fish. They say for every ten fish they catch and take to market, another ninety are caught and killed that have no value. They say the larger nets will minimize the gilling of baby fish.

Ronald Crum, Wakulla Fisherman's Association: "She needs to see it. We want her to see it. We want her to know the truth, and very clearly, when she goes out, she'll see the effects of these nets and we allege that they're destroying the environment."

The 1994 ruling that limited net fishing in Florida was meant to stop gilling. Fishermen claim the 2 inch regulation is doing more harm than good and goes against the very goal set forth by the ruling.

The attorney for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is challenging Fulford's request to take the hearing out of the courtroom and onto the open waters. He says it's out of her jurisdictional powers. Fulford is hearing his arguments today. We'll have the outcome of today's testimony as soon as it's available.


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