Data collection versus fish: new rules, new fees?
Perhaps flimsy aspects of whimsy are transforming ironclad reality in our environmental world.
Think butterfly wings versus steel.
But where’s the fun?
Case in point of the above dispute of lighthearted fighting going against some strongarm regulations proposal is an offering by the Florida Legislature charging for shoreside fishing.
In a pure, unfettered way, you’ve got a Huck Finn out there with a string and a bobber and a hook and a whole trotline of catfish, just whilin’ away another good southern day.
Then come regulators, with a proposal to charge shoreside fishers to pay for the opportunity to wet a line and rack up enough fish for dinner.
A bill is wending its way through chambers in Tallahassee to charge $17 a year for folks who want to dip a hook from shore or pier in a body of water.
No license is currently required for wade, dock, pier or other non-vessel fishers. Anyone trying to catch a fish from a boat in Florida waters is required to have a license.
State regulators figure something like $1.7 million could be raised annually under the wade-and-pay, or surf-cast and contribute proposal.
According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Dale White, “The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says it is the best way to meet an upcoming federal mandate. Next year, the National Marine Fisheries Service wants to create a registry of all anglers in the nation so it can get better data when making decisions about how to manage, protect and preserve fisheries. ‘They want to build a database of fishermen with names, addresses and phone numbers,’ said Lee Schlesinger, spokesman for FWC.”
According to the press report, if the state doesn’t implement the database, the feds will — at a charge, and the feds will keep any fee and use it for whatever federal programs they deem fit.
So Huck and his buddies — actually, it probably won’t be Huck, since kids 16 and younger are probably exempt, as are seniors — are faced with the threat of Big Brother Fed or Big Brother Florida to collect some dollars each year.
Frank Winkle, who’s the manager of a Sarasota bait and tackle shop, summed the whole matter up pretty well with his comment to the Herald-Tribune: “We get a lot of lesser financially sound people here. For a lot of people from Newtown, it's their only recreation. This has been one of the perks of living here.”
In other words, tax the poor for trying to put some fish on the table.
Data are good. Fishing data are important. How else can good fishery management practices be created without data?
But charging folks like ol’ Huck as a means to collect that data just seems the wrong way to go in light of ol’ Huck barely able to have a tent over his head in our current economic climate.
|Scallops are showing up along the shores of Anna Maria Island. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy
In a move of history coming up to snap at our fingers, scallops are apparently again pulsing through our local bay waters.
Islander boss Bonner Joy spotted and photographed a few scallops in Anna Maria Sound last week. Sarasota Bay Watch spotted a slew in a search for the mollusks last year.
Call scallops the canary in the mine shaft for estuary health. Like the little yellow birds, scallops are the critter most susceptible to anything bad in the atmosphere, be it air or water.
When the birds died in the mines, the miners ran away.
When scallops disappeared in the bays, the backwaters were in trouble. For Anna Maria Sound, Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay, years of pollution problems meant no scallops.
But now they’re back.
It’s important to remember that NO SCALLOP HARVESTING is allowed in our waters. Look, enjoy the little blue-eyed critters and then leave them alone.
If you really want to enjoy scallops, go to your favorite seafood restaurant. Sautéed in butter with a tad of garlic is best.
Scallop resurgence in our area is a huge accomplishment for environmental bay regulators, who have been fighting the good fight to get excessive pesticides, fertilizer and other nutrients out of the bay.
Those efforts appear to be working, if the little flappy, sometimes-swimming mollusks showing up along our shores are any clue.
Fishing regulations change all the time. The Islander keeps up on the latest regulations for the most popular fish sought in our area, and the rules and regs are available on-line at www.islander.org.