Link to Channel 27's clip from our "Rally in Tallahassee" on April. 29th, 2011
The sentiment of the public is changing. Hundreds and hundreds of people honked in support of our goal. Thank you to the public for your support!
Fishing For Freedom is so proud of these young citizens! (Something about this picture makes me feel so patriotic! (DG-FFF)
Jonas Porter wants our Governor to know, there are thousands of jobs awaiting Florida. By eliminating one single unnecessary regulation, the FWC mandate of 1 inch square mesh sizes (hole sizes) in fishing nets, the following would be accomplished...
1. As PROVEN by the FWC's own tests, fishing net by-catch (waste) would be reduced from 98% to 3%.
2. Larger meshes in nets would help the sport fishing industry by allowing millions of juvenile sport and bait fish to escape and have an opportunity to spawn instead of being needlessly killed when they are only 6 inches long.
3. Help the depressed coastal communities by allowing fishermen to catch and marketable adult fish rather than wasting 98% of their time destroying juvenile fish.
4. The one unnecessary rule change would also help create and sustain jobs in the trucking industry, fish houses, restaurants, box makers and the rest of an infrastructure that depends on a commercial harvest in Florida.
This can ALL be accomplished WITHOUT nets exceeding the constitutional LIMITATION of 500 square feet of mesh area as ADMITTED by the FWC in public meetings.
"Let's get To Work!"
Here are two articles from reporters covering our protest at the FWC in 2005.
The First is from the Panama City News Herald
Local: Group protests fish net rules
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Group protests fish net rules
Commercial fishermen say new guidelines hurting industry
By Ryan Mills
News Herald Writer 747-5070 / email@example.com
Ronald Fred Crum calls it genocide.
The Panacea fisherman and bait shop owner said new fish net regulations, implemented by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in July, are further hindering commercial fishermen whose numbers have dwindled since the Net Limitation Amendment was added to the Florida Constitution in 1994.
Crum estimated that 90 percent of Florida’s commercial fishermen have gone out of business because of the amendment, and he believes the new regulations will add to their woes.
“They want a genocide of commercial fishermen,” Crum said. “Right now, the only people who are doing well are the poachers.”
Crum and about 15 other commercial fishermen, most of whom are members of the fishing advocacy group Fishing For Freedom, gathered around the flagpole at FWC headquarters in Tallahassee on Wednesday morning to protest the regulations. They brought news articles about the issue, examples of legal and illegal fishing nets and plastic fish to demonstrate the differences in the size of the fish caught by each net.
“I’m here today in hope that I can push their integrity button,” Crum said. “We’re right, they’re wrong and all the tests support it.”
The fishermen wanted the FWC to explain why the regulations were put in place and to educate the fishermen on how to use the legal nets.
But Sharon Lobello, the director of community relations for the FWC, refused to answer even the most simple questions about the regulations, she said, because of a lawsuit that is pending in Leon County Circuit Court.
The lawsuit was filed by Crum.
Lobello would not discuss the purpose of the regulations or how the fishermen are supposed to use nets that they claim are not “commercially viable.”
The FWC has been telling the fishermen that the nets are viable, said Jonas Porter, a fisherman from Woodville who attended the protest. He came to learn how.
“They said that we don’t know how to use (the nets),” Porter said. “I’ve been fishing for over 50 years. I want them to teach me how to fish.”
Ken Haddad, the executive director of the FWC, said in a phone interview Tuesday that he is disappointed with the criticism from fishermen, some of whom have compared the FWC to Nazis.
“Personally, I can’t hold their anger and frustration against them,” Haddad said. “We’re upholding what the constitution laid out for this agency to do.”
The fishermen’s struggles date back to November 1994, when 72 percent of Florida voters approved the Net Limitation Amendment. The amendment prohibited the use of gill and entangling nets and limited those and all other nets to a maximum of 500 square feet within three miles of the shoreline.
Most of the fishermen The News Herald talked to are not opposed to the amendment but are against the FWC’s July decision to define a gill net as any net with mesh larger than 2 inches. They claim the 2-inch mesh is too small to catch commercially viable fish and instead catches and kills small juvenile fish.The fishermen said the nets work by catching fish whose heads pass through the mesh holes. The fishermen said only small fish get caught in the 2-inch mesh because the holes are too small to catch adult mullet, which bounce off. The fisherman are lobbying for a 3-inch mesh that would catch larger mullet but would allow small fish to swim through.
“The only fish that get caught in those (2-inch) nets are juvenile, which are illegal to catch, illegal to kill and illegal to keep,” said David Grix, a commercial fisherman and the vice president of Fishing for Freedom. “These nets are unnecessarily killing and wasting 97 percent of the catch, and they know this.”
The fishermen also are against the new regulations implemented in July that limit the number of meshes to 14 per square foot of cork line.
In June, FWC commissioners formed the FWC Net Work Group to conduct a two-day study to compare 2-inch and 3-inch nets. The group was comprised of representatives of Florida’s commercial net fishery and members of the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement, Division of Marine Fisheries Management and legal office as well as the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
The results appear to back up the fishermen’s claims.
A total of 262 fish were collected in the study representing 11 species. The 2-inch net collected 152 fish, representing 10 species. Most of the mullet caught with the 2-inch net were “sublegal” in size. The 3-inch net collected 110 fish, representing four species. Most of the mullet caught in the 3-inch net were of legal size.
The amendment is supposed to protect from overharvesting, Grix said, but the current regulations are having the opposite effect by causing fishermen to catch too many juvenile fish.
“You don’t want to kill all the small fish,” Grix said. “That’s your future.”
The Second Article is From The Appalachacola & The Carrabelle Times
0901 FFF Protest
No Schooling for Fishermen
by Laurel Newman
"We wouldn't presume to tell commercial fishermen how to catch fish," a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) spokeswoman said Wednesday at a fishermen's demonstration on the steps of the FWC headquarters in Tallahassee.
The demonstration was called by the Fishing For Freedom (FFF) organization, which has been legally opposing the FWC's mandate that two-inch stretched mesh nets are the constitutionally-approved gear that commercial fishermen must use.
On Aug. 9, FFF president Ron "Fred" Crum, a commercial fisherman and bait-shop owner from Panacea, delivered a petition with over 100 signatures to FWC director Ken Haddad, which requested, "Florida commercial net fishermen have paid the FWC for a commercial harvest license, and therefore have the right to a commercial harvest by law. Said commercial net fishermen demand that the FWC provide schooling on how to effectively use the two-inch stretch mesh nets by Aug. 24, 2005. The demanded schooling must teach the net fishermen not only how to harvest fish in a commercially viable manner, but must also teach fishermen how to do so without destroying the future stocks of this state's fisheries represented by juvenile fish. The FWC is put on notice that if they fail to arrange classes by Aug. 24, that severe protests will take place outside of FWC headquarters in Tallahassee starting on that date."
With no "schooling" forthcoming, the FFF members gathered in protest, with a display of the FWC's "legal" two-inch stretched mesh net, and the three-inch net the fishermen want to use, complete with replicas of the size mullet the two nets have been proven to catch.
The FWC "legal" two-inch net has been proven to capture mostly juvenile mullet, who have not yet reached the ability to spawn. The fishermen's three-inch net has been proven to catch adult, commercially-viable mullet, while allowing the smaller juveniles to escape.
On June 15 and 16 of this year, FWC biologists joined FFF fishermen to conduct comparison net tests, to see exactly what type and size fish the two nets would catch. The study was initiated by the FWC Net Work Group formed by an action of the FWC commissioners in May 2005. The work group was comprised of representatives of Florida's commercial net fishery, the FWC's Division of Law Enforcement, Division of Marine Fisheries, Legal Office, and the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. The goal of the work group was to evaluate nets and fishery gear for fishermen for possible inclusion in commission rule, without violating the Net Limitation Amendment.
On Wednesday, at the protest, members of the press were unable to obtain copies of the test results. A spokesman for the FWC answered all requests with a statement that since the FFF had filed a court case against them, the documents could not be released. The fishermen had no qualms about releasing the results, which justify their position.
"At our protest," Dave Grix, vice president of the FFF, said, "the FWC refused to give the press the documents containing net test data paid for by your tax dollars. So, we decided to publish the data they didn't want disclosed. This is proof positive that the FWC has lied in court and to the public.
"For years," he said, "the fishing community endured FWC lies to the court and public that the FWC's two-inch net caught fish at a 95 per cent marketable rate, when in fact the data proves that their nets have a 95 per cent waste rate. Their own data has exposed their deception."
Results of the net test can be found on the FFF website, FishingForFreedom.net.
“We are not just fighting for our right to make a living, “ Ron “Fred” Crum said Wednesday. “We have a responsibility to protect the environment and the resource, and we want to do that without being forced to break the laws of our state. But the FWC mandates do not protect the environment or the resource; they are forcing us to fish with nets that are harmful to that which we want to protect and nurture. Killing baby fish is no way to protect a resource, but these people have been fighting us for years, telling us to use these ‘baby-killer’ nets, ‘or else.’”
To reinforce his stance, Crum often quotes the Florida Constitution:Section 16: Limiting Marine Net Fishing.
(a) "The marine resources of the State of Florida belong to all of the people of the state and should be conserved and managed for the benefit of the state, its people, and future generations."
370.025 Marine fisheries; policy and standards.--
(1) The Legislature hereby declares the policy of the state to be management and preservation of its renewable marine fishery resources, based upon the best available information, emphasizing protection and enhancement of the marine and estuarine environment in such a manner as to provide for optimum sustained benefits and use to all the people of this state for present and future generations.
b) Conservation and management measures shall be based upon the best information available, including biological, sociological, economic, and other information deemed relevant by the commission.
g) Conservation and management decisions shall be fair and equitable to all the people of this state and carried out in such a manner that no individual, corporation, or entity acquires an excessive share of such privileges.
“For over seven years, the Marine Fisheries Commission and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have considered minorities, the poor, and the consumer "irrelevant" in their rule making procedures,” Grix said. “The problem first began in 1997 when Administrative Law Judge Davis declared information sought by interrogatories dealing with minorities, the poor, and consumers ‘irrelevant.’ Since then, the MFC and FWC have apparently decided the ‘irrelevant’ decision in 1997 gives them the ability to ignore the Florida Constitution and the Florida Statutes of 370.025 on any decision. This is a short version of how the 2" stretch mesh rule for seines became law. This rule has adversely affected citizens, the economy, and the resource. We firmly disagree with this policy of prejudice.”
He continued, “The FWC uses their claim of "autonomy" to arbitrarily and capriciously pass rules without obeying laws, the Florida Constitution, and the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution states there are three branches of government, not a fourth without checks and balances as the FWC claims to be. If we don't remove this illegal form of government's unchecked power, it will set a dangerous precedent for all other forms of government.”
Ron “Fred” Crum speaks with the FWC spokeswoman at the Tallahassee demonstration.
PHOTO: The comparison net display, backed by a board covered with Carrabelle Times stories about the net limitation amendment and the fishermen’s plight.
PHOTO: A net fisherman displays one of the “legal” nets, telling observers that he can’t catch enough commercially viable mullet to make a living with the mandated net.