Judge Sees Holes In Net Ban

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By: Bailey Myers
October 30, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - A decision that has fishermen hitting the water with nets in hand... A District Court Judge ruled this morning
commercial fishermen can use any net for fishing.

"In the summer time I used to catch anywhere from three to four thousand pounds of mullet a week," explained local fisherman Keith Ward.

Ever since the F.W.C. banned the type of net these fishermen use to catch mullet, things have changed. Ward says, "It's about destroyed all of us. Everybody is about to go broke."

Early Wednesday morning things changed for not just this mullet fishermen but all fishermen across the state.

Judge Jackie Fulford said, "The Nets that are authorized for these fishermen to use by F.W.C.-- number one can't be used to catch legal size fish because the size is not great enough."

That's why Judge Jackie Fulford ordered a halt on the current limitations on gill net fishing throughout the state saying, "It just doesn't make sense."

She explained there are contradictions between Florida's Constitutional Amendment and Florida Fish and Wildlife's current rules.

Now fishermen can use the nets they want, versus the smaller mesh nets which the FWC says protects the mullet fisheries. All in hopes of catching more legal sized fish like they used to.

"Now when I come back this afternoon there will be fish all over the place," said Ward.

Legal representatives for F.W.C. said they plan on filing an emergency order as soon as possible. That means the ruling the judge made today could be stalled until a higher authority reviews the case.

By: Mary Silvers
October 23, 2013

A Circuit Judge is calling the states net ban a “legal absurdity.” Judge Jackie Fulford has been mulling her decision for a year before ruling in favor of mullet fishermen.

For eighteen years, Mullet fishermen contend that the net ban approved by voters is good, but the rules the state adopted on net sizes is killing more fish than its saving.

“That’s what we use daily, catch 98 fish that you can’t sell, every two you take to market. This net right here will catch a higher rate. Then this net will catch almost a 1 to 2 percent bi-catch with a 98 or 99 percent catch rate,” says Ronald Crum, Bait Store Owner.

Judge Jackie Fulford Ruled against the net ban saying there is a conflict between what voters approved, a 500 sq ft net and what regulators adopted, a limit on mesh size.

Within hours of the decision, the state appeals which effectively keeps the current band in place.

At My Way Seafood, 50 pounds of mullet came in a first thing Wednesday. “To catch 50 pounds this guy fished all night long. He probably caught at least 1,000 smaller fish juvenile that he had to kill to catch that 50 pounds,” says Jason Turner, Seafood Dealer.

After almost two decades the amendment’s author is frustrated. “And so we don’t quite understand why the Wakulla County fishermen, you know, can’t agree with about 18 years worth of rulings,” says Ted Foresgren, coastal Conservation Assn.

Jonas Porter was the first person ever arrested for using an illegal net in 1995. He’s been fighting ever since. “It’s what people dying overseas for. They’re fighting for their heritage, to keep their heritage from changing. That’s what I’m fighting,” says Jonas Porter, Mullet Fisherman.

And he is relishing, for the first time, being told that he’s right.

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