TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on Thursday, Feb. 5, approved a series of rule amendments for the marine life (aquarium species) fishery. These rules are intended to enhance the FWC’s existing marine life regulations to help maintain the health of Florida’s important coral reef ecosystem.
Several species will be added to the marine life rule, which means that commercial harvesters of these species will need a marine life endorsement to collect them, and these species also will be included in the marine life recreational bag limit. The added species include porcupine fish, spotted burrfish, black brotula, key brotula, yellow stingray, blackbar soldierfish, red mithrax crab, emerald crab, red ridged clinging crab, the star snail lithopoma tectum, all hermit crabs (except land hermits), and nassarius snails.
The new rules will allow recreational harvesters to take no more than five of any one marine life species daily within the 20-organism aggregate bag limit and possess no more than a two-day bag limit (up to 40 marine life organisms).
In addition, the new rules will raise the maximum size limit for butterflyfish from 4 to 5 inches total length and establish maximum size limits of 9 inches total length for tangs and 12 inches total length for parrotfish for all marine life harvesters, change the daily commercial bag limit for butterflyfish from 75 per vessel to 50 per person or 100 per vessel (if two endorsement-holders are aboard), and establish a commercial daily vessel limit of 400 for dwarf seahorses.
The new rules also will lower the commercial daily bag limit for condylactis anemones from 400 per vessel to 200 per marine life endorsement holder on a vessel, and establish commercial daily bag limits of 400 per vessel for emerald crabs, 1 gallon per person and 2 gallons per vessel for lithopoma tectum (added to the current star snail bag limit), and 1 quart per person and 2 quarts per vessel for scarlet reef hermits.
Other new rules include specifying that all marine life harvesters must take ricordea (a soft coral) and all corallimorph polyps as a single polyp only and establishing a commercial daily bag limit for all corallimorph polyps of 100 polyps per person or 200 per vessel (if two endorsement-holders are aboard). A commercial daily bag limit will also be established for zoanthid polyps of 1 gallon of polyps per person or 2 gallons per vessel (if two endorsement-holders are aboard), and the only gear allowed to be used by all marine life harvesters for collecting zoanthid and all corallimorph polyps is a flexible blade no wider than 2 inches, such as a paint scraper, putty knife or razor blade.
The new rules also will allow the harvest of ornamental sponges north of Egmont Key in the Gulf of Mexico to be taken with a 1-inch amount of substrate beyond the holdfast and a 1-inch thick piece of substrate below the holdfast of the sponge. Taking ornamental sponges with substrate will not be allowed in waters south of Egmont Key.
Finally, the new rules will allow live rock harvest from an aquaculture lease site to count towards the requalification of the marine life transferable dive endorsement, restrict quinaldine use to marine life dive and non-transferable dive endorsement holders only, and apply other technical rule changes.
The rule amendments take effect July 1.
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