Florida Gillnet Ban Upheld – Good news, bad news in Florida

Good news, bad news in Florida

The Good: Spotted seatrout stocks have rebounded dramatically following gillnet amendment.
The Good: Spotted seatrout stocks have rebounded dramatically following gillnet amendment.

Good News…

Florida Gillnet Ban Upheld

Southeast kayak anglers—and fish–got some very excellent news recently.

The Florida Supreme Court denied a petition to overturn a constitutional amendment banning the use of gillnets in state waters. The amendment, approved by 72 percent of Florida voters, has withstood myriad challenges by the commercial fishing industry since its passage in 1994. Serious declines among inshore gamefish such as snook, seatrout, pompano and redfish, along with forage mullet populations, rallied recreational fishing groups to demand its adoption. Redfish and trout stocks, in particular, rebounded immediately once the indiscriminate killing machines were removed.

“The Constitutional Amendment that has protected Florida’s marine fisheries for more than 20 years is safe and intact once again,” said CCA Florida Chairman Bill Camp. “We are grateful to the FWC for its efforts to reverse a wayward court ruling that threatened to turn the clock back to the dark days of gillnetting in our state waters.”

Few doubt that this is the end of the struggle to protect Florida’s fish.

“We have been down this road many times,” said Camp, “and there is no doubt the gillnetters will try again.”

The Bad: Seagrass is gone in many areas, but chemical contaminants remain.
The Bad: Seagrass is gone in many areas, but chemical contaminants remain.

… and Bad News

Chemical Creatures from the Black Lagoon

As if Florida’s Indian River Lagoon hasn’t suffered enough in recent years from massive seagrass die-offs and toxic brown algae outbreaks, a new study found potentially toxic levels of fireproofing chemicals and pesticides such as DDT—banned decades ago—in its marine life.

The new study, published recently in the journal Environmental Research, moves sharks and rays alongside sea turtles, alligators, dolphins and other lagoon critters previously found to harbor organic pollutants.

Perhaps most interesting was the continued presence of DDT compounds. Many lakes in east central Florida were drained and converted to agriculture to provide food during World War II, and DDT and other chemicals were introduced during that era to control pests. After the war ended, the lakes were re-flooded over the contaminated soil, allowing the pesticides to enter the food chain.

Considering that the war ended 70 years ago and the effects are still being felt today will hopefully cause area planners to consider the long-term effects of the actions they take today.

Flame retardants, widely used throughout building materials, furniture and electrical equipment, are known carcinogens. Florida Atlantic University/Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute researchers have detected increasingly high levels in lagoon dolphins in recent years. The compounds accumulate in escalating levels higher up the food chain, hindering reproduction and fetal development.

The exact level of contaminants that pose a risk to humans is unclear. Health advisories already suggest that women of child-bearing age and children limit their intake of certain fish species.

“If you analyzed everything that we either interact with, we eat or drink, to the level that these were analyzed,” said John Windsor, a marine sciences professor at Florida Institute of Technology, “I think we would be shocked by all the components that are there that could be of concern.”