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The Limited Net Fishing Amendment
 
 

Van Lewis Fillets The Net Limitation Act

Van Lewis explains some of the legal dilemmas concerning what is constitutionally allowable concerning 500 square foot nets. You can't prohibit what is allowed... ??? Read and learn ...

Summary:

The writers of Article X, Section 16 of the Florida Constitution — the amendment "Limiting Marine Net Fishing" — clearly intended to ban "gill nets" and "other entangling nets" from Florida waters. Here are the words from the amendment:

"No gill nets or other entangling nets shall be used in any Florida waters".

The voters of Florida by a large majority voted for and adopted the amendment in 1994 and it entered the Florida Constitution and became effective on July 1, 1995.

End of story?

Hardly.

The amendment fails to define what gill nets and entangling nets ARE, and therefore, because there actually ARE no definitions of gill or entangling nets in the Florida Constitution — despite a deceptive appearance to the contrary and despite the amendment's clear intent to ban them — THERE ARE NO GILL OR ENTANGLING NET BANS IN THE CONSTITUTION.

Period. Exclamation point! End of story. Finito!

Here are Questions and Answers explaining the details:

Q: What IS a gill net, anyway?

A: Florida has been fighting for ten years over the answer to that simple question, and there is no end yet in sight to this unnecessary, wasteful, destructive, and increasingly dangerous fight.

Q: Why? How did this madness begin?

A: In a laudable but — in at least three important details — seriously flawed effort at marine conservation, the people of Florida in 1994 adopted an amendment to the Florida Constitution "Limiting Marine Net Fishing". This amendment took effect on July 1, 1995.

Since then millions of tax dollars have been unnecessarily wasted and many human families and our state's environment and economy have been seriously damaged by the amendment's fundamental flaws, and by a small number of state officials' illogical views on the amendment and their highly expensive and unconstitutional efforts at enforcement of their own wild misinterpretations of it.

Q: What does the amendment actually say?

A: It consists of eight parts, (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (g), and (h). We will review these very briefly here.

Click The Link Below For The Entire Amendment "Limiting Marine Net Fishing"

Article X, Section 16 of the Florida Constitution "Limiting Marine Net Fishing"



Part (a) consists of only two sentences.

The first sentence says to whom the marine resources of the state belong and what should be done with them:

“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.”

The second sentence says that the people through the amendment create limitations on marine net fishing and tells why:

“To this end the people hereby enact limitations on marine net fishing in Florida waters to protect saltwater finfish, shellfish, and other marine animals from unnecessary killing, overfishing and waste.”

Part (b) consists of one preliminary sentence and two following sections, (b) (1) and (b) (2), also quite brief:

“(b) For the purpose of catching or taking any saltwater finfish, shellfish or other marine animals in Florida waters:”

Section (b) (1) contains the amendment's infamous and failed attempt to ban what it calls “gill nets or other entangling nets”:

“(1) No gill nets or other entangling nets shall be used in any Florida waters;”

Section (b) (2) is an overall size limitation on most fish nets; 500 square feet per net:

“(2) In addition to the prohibition set forth in (1), no other type of net containing more than 500 square feet of mesh area shall be used in nearshore and inshore Florida waters. Additionally, no more than two such nets, which shall not be connected, shall be used from any vessel, and no person not on a vessel shall use more than one such net in nearshore and inshore Florida waters.”

Part (c) is five (attempted) definitions of terms found in the amendment:

“(1) "gill net" ... and "entangling net" ...”
“(2) "mesh area" ...”
“(3) "coastline" ...”
“(4) "Florida waters" ...”
“(5) "nearshore and inshore Florida waters" ...”

At least three fatal flaws in the amendment are found in the first of those five definitions. We will return to it in a moment.

Part (d) exempts two classes of nets from the restrictions of the amendment; those used for scientific research or governmental purposes.

Part (e) provides for prosecution and punishment of persons violating the restrictions of the amendment.

Part (f) provides that implementing legislation is not required for enforcement of the amendment and that additional restrictions on net fishing may be implemented by law.

Part (g) provides that if any portion of the amendment is held invalid the rest of the amendment still stands. This important provision can help protect the beneficial and constitutional parts of the amendment by making it easier for judges to reject the plainly unconstitutional ones without feeling that they are destroying the real and legitimate resource and environmental protections the amendment affords.

Part (h) provides the effective date of the amendment, the first July 1 following adoption, which turned out to be July 1, 1995.

Q: So what are the three fatal flaws you have identified in the gill and other entangling net definitions that have caused so much unnecessary misunderstanding, waste, heartache, damage and further danger for Florida's fish, citizens and law enforcement officials?

A: The triply fatally flawed definition of gill and other entangling nets in the amendment reads as follows:

“(c) (1) "gill net" means one or more walls of netting which captures saltwater finfish by ensnaring or entangling them in the meshes of the net by the gills, and "entangling net" means a drift net, trammell net, stab net, or any other net which captures saltwater finfish, shellfish, or other marine animals by causing all or part of heads, fins, legs, or other body parts to become entangled or ensnared in the meshes of the net, but a hand thrown cast net is not a gill net or an entangling net;”

The gill net portion of the attempted definition is fatally flawed not just for one important reason, but for at least two.

First, the gill net definition is simply wrong. Gill nets DO NOT, in fact, capture saltwater finfish "by ensnaring or entangling them in the meshes of the net by the gills ".

Gill nets capture saltwater finfish by a number of different physical mechanisms, one of which is ensnaring or entangling them by the gill COVERS or gill COVER PLATES; never by the gills.

Gills are the red feathery structures located UNDERNEATH the gill covers. Gills are breathing organs of fish that allow them both to take oxygen from the water into the hemoglobin in the red blood cells in the fishes' blood streams to use in cellular respiration, and also to give back into the water from the hemoglobin in the blood the carbon dioxide that results from cellular respiration. Gills perform the same essential life functions in fish that lungs perform in mammals.

The gills never get ensnared or entangled by the meshes of the net. They are too flimsy and flexible, too deep in the fish and too well protected by the gill covers.

It is the much harder gill covers, which cover and protect the delicate gills, that actually get stuck forward of the netting as the fish tries to swim through it, that catch the fish in the net by "gilling" it, preventing it from backing out of the hole it has gotten itself stuck in by the gill COVERS, never by the gills.

If there were a so-called "lung net" that caught people by the neck, defining it by saying that it caught people by the lungs would be wrong. Claiming that gill nets catch fish by the gills is wrong.

Strict interpretation of the amendment's gill net definition would require us to conclude, since NO fish net ensnares or entangles fish by the gills, that there is NO SUCH THING as a gill net.

Q: Is gilling fish with fish nets unconstitutional or otherwise illegal in Florida?

A: No. It is vitally important to understand that gilling fish with fish nets is NOT prohibited by the amendment, nor is it otherwise illegal or against any rule in the state of Florida. Gilling fish with fish nets is fully legal now in Florida and always has been.

It is fishing with so-called "gill or entangling nets" that the amendment tries to prohibit, and fails to because it does not define them.

We cannot PROHIBIT BY law what we do not DEFINE IN law.

Q: Isn't the fact that the definition falsely asserts that the gills get entangled by the net — clearly they do not; it is the gill covers, not the gills, that "gill" in the net — isn't this a mere technicality, of no importance? After all, everyone knows what is meant by the gill net ban and this clear technical error in the definition should not invalidate the intent of the voters to ban gill nets in Florida, should it?

A: Yes, it should.

If "everyone knows" what a gill net is, why has the fight over what a gill net is consumed millions of dollars in public taxes and private losses, and ten years of our lives?

If law is not concerned with technicality, then why is law such a monumental and monumentally technical business in this country?

Try telling the Florida's net fishers and former net fishers that "technicalities" don't matter in Florida law. If you do you may find yourself wrapped up or even entangled in a REAL gill net, not one of these little 500 square foot rectangular nets that are NOT gill nets. More on this shortly.

Q: Well, putting aside this technicality for the moment, you said there is another fatal flaw in the gill net definition. What is it?

A: The gill net definition is fatally flawed not only because it defines gill nets incorrectly. The second fatal flaw in it is that if you DO ignore the obvious technical error, it does not define gill nets AT ALL.

Q: What?? Why do you say that?

A: Because the definition of a definition is that it delineates something CLEARLY, DISTINCTLY, ACCURATELY and PRECISELY enough to enable us to DIFFERENTIATE — to tell the DIFFERENCE between — the thing(s) it defines and the things that are NOT the thing(s) defined. Otherwise it is not a definition at all because it has not defined, and therefore does not meet the definition of “definition”.

Here are a number of definitions from dictionaries for the word "define":

“To specify distinctly:”
“To delineate the outline or form of:”
“To determine or clearly exhibit the boundaries of; to mark the limits of;”
“To state the precise meaning of (a word or sense of a word, for example).”
“To determine with precision; to mark out with distinctness; to ascertain or exhibit clearly;”
“To determine the precise signification of; to fix the meaning of; to describe accurately; ... as, to define a word, a phrase, or a scientific term.”
“To fix the bounds of; to bring to a termination; to end.”

A "definition" that doesn't enable us to tell the difference between things that are members of the class defined and things that are not members of the class defined is, by definition, not a definition at all. It is an impostor. It is a lie because it falsely represents itself as being a definition when in fact it is not one.

This gill net definition is not a definition at all. It is a lie, and a double and doubly confusing one at that. We don't need imposters and lies in the Florida Constitution.

With this lie about gill nets in our constitution, it is no wonder that we in Florida have been fighting for ten years over what gill nets are.

Anyone who still thinks the amendment "Limiting Marine Net Fishing" defines gill nets or other entangling nets, accurately or even at all, hasn't been paying attention over the last ten years. Let's look at it "clearly", "precisely", "distinctly", "accurately", so as to "terminate" and bring this ten-year madness "to an end".

Notice that the definition of a gill net in the amendment — even if we forget the fact that this so-called "definition" is absolutely wrong about what part of the fish is ensnared or entangled by gill nets — does NOT enable us to tell the difference between a gill net and other nets. (Thus our ten-year war in Florida over what a gill net is.) It merely tells us that gill nets gill fish. Here it is again:

“"gill net" means one or more walls of netting which captures saltwater finfish by ensnaring or entangling them in the meshes of the net by the gills,”

By this definition — if we forget the "technicality" which makes NO fish net a gill net — EVERY fish net EVER MADE is a gill net because every fish net gills fish. This defective "definition" tells us that no fish net is a gill net and/or that every fish net is a gill net.

That’s crazy. And it’s been making Florida crazy.

Clearly this is a troublesome and unacceptable "definition" of gill nets because both possible meanings are the exact opposite of each other and the complete opposite of the truth. Both meanings are totally false.

The historical truth is that there HAVE BEEN gill nets in Florida, even if no one in Florida can now agree on what they were or are, and that not all fish nets were or are gill nets even though all fish nets did and still do gill fish. There were and are other kinds of fish nets, too. Our history and our constitution plainly say so.

It is a true statement of fact that gill nets gill fish — true as far as it goes — but that statement of fact does NOT tell us what is NOT a gill net, because EVERY fish net gills fish, not just "gill nets".

The DEFINING characteristic or characteristics of "gill nets", whatever it or they may be, absolutely and certainly is NOT that they gill fish, which is the ONLY characteristic that the misnamed "definition" mentions.

ALL FISH NETS GILL FISH, but NOT all nets are "gill nets". That is true both historically and because the constitution says so, both directly in so many words and also indirectly, by permitting a number of kinds of nets that gill fish while at the same time prohibiting, or attempting to, what it vaguely calls "gill nets".

Q: Do we get it yet?

A: Despite a deceptive appearance to the contrary, there simply IS no definition of "gill nets" in the Florida Constitution, and therefore there can be and there is no valid gill net ban. Never has been.

The problem with the amendment is that it tries to prohibit what it does not define.

That's not fair. It’s not fair to citizens and it’s not fair to law enforcement personnel. We can't say something is illegal without accurately stating what it IS that IS illegal. Otherwise we charge law enforcement with the impossible task of enforcing a law that's too vague to be enforced within the constitutional requirements for due process of law and equal protection of the law.

And that is exactly what has been happening to fishers in Florida for the last ten years. We have been victims of law enforcement run amok. CRAZY law enforcement. Our rights to due process and equal protection are violated all the time by arbitrary and capricious enforcement of mere whims of Marine Patrol officers.

Here again are the exact words where the gill net definition itself says in so many words — despite the incontrovertible fact that all fish nets gill fish — that some gilling fish nets are not "gill nets":

“(c) (1) ... but a hand thrown cast net is not a gill net or an entangling net;”

Hand thrown cast nets gill and entangle fish all the time. I know they do. I get some of the best food I eat with a cast net that gills and entangles fish very efficiently. Have for decades. My daddy did before me.

Physically it IS a fish net that gills and entangles fish — there is no doubt about that physical fact — but legally it is NOT a "gill or entangling net" — there is no doubt about that in Florida law.

Q: So what IS a “gill net”? (Legally, I mean, not physically. I understand now that all fish nets gill fish physically, but that doesn't make them "gill nets", legally. Something else must. What?)

A: Here is the curious fact of the matter: No one can now tell you what it is that makes a net that gills fish (all of them) into a "gill net" (some or maybe NONE of them). In Florida, NO ONE KNOWS what a "gill net" is now. Or even if there IS any longer any such thing, legally speaking. All we can say for sure is that physically EVERY fish net gills fish, that some (or ALL!) of these fish nets that do gill fish definitely are NOT "gill nets" in the legal sense, and that SOME of them MAY be.

Q: Which ones?

A: That's the $64,000,000 question. In Florida, nobody knows.

Q: OK, so if no one can say for sure what a "gill net" is in Florida now, how can Florida law enforcement enforce the gill net ban?

A: Completely irrationally and arbitrarily, which means that fishers are being deprived of our constitutional rights to due process and equal protection every time a Marine Patrol officer arrests one of us for fishing with an undefined "gill net".

Q: OK. If we don't know what fish nets ARE gill nets, then what about telling us which ones are NOT gill nets?

A: GREAT QUESTION! NOW you're THINKING!

The only thing the definition says about gill nets is that they gill fish (DUUUHHH! Show me a fish net that doesn’t!) and that cast nets, despite the fact that they gill fish, aren't gill nets.

That is not a definition of gill nets, not unless all nets except cast nets are gill nets.

And yet that can't be the intent of the amendment either because in definition “(c) (2) "mesh area"...”, we learn that a number of ADDITIONAL nets BESIDES cast nets, ALL of which gill and otherwise entangle fish, ARE PERMITTED by the amendment and therefore are NOT and CANNOT BE "gill or entangling nets".

Here is the proof that additional nets besides cast nets are not gill nets, in the plain language of the amendment:

“(c) (2) "mesh area" of a net means the total area of netting with the meshes open to comprise the maximum square footage. The square footage shall be calculated using standard mathematical formulas for geometric shapes. Seines and other rectangular nets shall be calculated using the maximum length and maximum width of the netting. Trawls and other bag type nets shall be calculated as a cone using the maximum circumference of the net mouth to derive the radius, and the maximum length from the net mouth to the tail end of the net to derive the slant height. Calculations for any other nets or combination type nets shall be based on the shapes of the individual components;”

"Seines", "other rectangular nets", "trawls", "other bag type nets", "combination type nets", "and other nets" are not gill nets, even though they gill fish. They can’t be, because gill nets are, supposedly, banned, and all these other nets are provided for. The amendment cannot simultaneously permit and prohibit the same nets. Such an amendment would be completely nonsensical, worthy only of Alice In Wonderland. (And Alice in Florida, of course.)

Nobody has to know how to measure the area of a net that is already banned for some reason other than net area. It’s already banned. Its size is irrelevant. These other nets, that we DO have to be able to determine the size of to find out if they meet the constitutional net size requirement, are clearly permitted IF they are 500 square feet or less in total area and therefore are not “gill nets”, even though they gill fish. Gilling fish is perfectly legal, remember, so long as you do it with a net that isn’t a “gill net”.

Q: What should the FFWCC and the Marine Patrol do now?

A: How about admitting that they have been wrong for 10 years? What’s so hard about that?

What I believe the FFWCC and the Marine Patrol should do now is realize, at long last, that these specific 500 square foot nets provided for in the constitution are not and cannot be gill nets, and therefore that they should not be arresting people for using the very 500 square foot nets that the constitution clearly permits. 500 square foot nets aren't “gill nets”, even though they, like cast nets and all other fish nets, gill fish. They can't be “gill nets” because the constitution permits them.

The FFWCC and the Marine Patrol don't seem to see it that way though. They just arrest anyone they want to who gills fish — forget the constitution and the rest of Florida law! — when ever and wherever they want to.

That is no way to do law enforcement.

Q: But this insanity is in the constitution. What can be done about it NOW?

A: Sanity can be restored. The definition of gill nets in the Florida Constitution is wrong, and it is additionally unconstitutionally vague, and therefore the section of the constitution to which the "gill net" NON-definition applies,

“(b) (1) No gill nets or other entangling nets shall be used in any Florida waters;”

and the definition itself

“(c) (1) "gill net" means one or more walls of netting which captures saltwater finfish by ensnaring or entangling them in the meshes of the net by the gills, and "entangling net" means a drift net, trammell net, stab net, or any other net which captures saltwater finfish, shellfish, or other marine animals by causing all or part of heads, fins, legs, or other body parts to become entangled or ensnared in the meshes of the net, but a hand thrown cast net is not a gill net or an entangling net;”

are clearly unconstitutional and will be held to be so by the Florida Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court and stricken from the Florida Constitution — IF net fishers ever get our day in court.

Q: But you've only shown us that the “gill net” ban in the constitution must be thrown out. You haven't shown that the “entangling net” ban must also be banned.

A: Remember I said there are at least three fatal flaws in the amendment? Here's the third one:

The entangling net definition has one of the same fatal flaws that the gill net definition has. Because ALL fish nets entangle fish, this so-called "definition" does not define "entangling nets" well enough to enable us to tell the difference between a supposedly prohibited "entangling net" and a permitted fish net that is NOT an “entangling net” despite the fact that it entangles fish, and therefore it does not define and therefore it is not a definition, despite its deceptive appearance to the contrary:

“... "entangling net" means ... any other net which captures saltwater finfish, shellfish, or other marine animals by causing all or part of heads, fins, legs, or other body parts to become entangled or ensnared in the meshes of the net.”

ALL fish nets do this. All fish nets catch fish by entangling them, as well as by other means sometimes. And yet the amendment clearly does not mean that all fish nets are “entangling nets” legally speaking because it permits many classes of fish nets ALL of which do, in fact, entangle fish.

Q: OK. So what do we do?

A: The gill and entangling net bans in the net limiting amendment have been from the beginning and are today clearly unconstitutional because of their unconstitutionally vague — and in the case of gill nets the absolutely wrong — definitions in the constitution. Throwing the invalid, failed-from-the-get-go gill and entangling net definitions and the therefore undefined gill and entangling net bans out of the constitution, and keeping the valid net limitations in, will solve the problem.

We CAN go sane again in Florida.

Q: With the gill and entangling net bans gone from the constitution, what will be left? Won't the amendment be gutted?

A: No. Not at all. No way. Absolutely not. The defective gill and entangling net bans have never been an effective or even a valid part of the amendment. They should never have been included in it in the first place. They were invalid from the outset. They do not exist. It's time the courts recognized this fact.

The non-definitions on which the net bans were based have only served to cause deep misunderstanding, division, unnecessary prosecution and litigation, waste of financial, marine and human resources, and other ongoing harm and further danger to Florida's fish, people and government officials. Read all about it on FishingForFreedom.net. You’re not likely to find out much about it in Florida’s politically biased commercial media.

After the courts ban the defective and unconstitutionally vague net bans improperly included in the amendment, the good parts of it will remain and very efficiently and effectively provide for both resource protection and the sustainable, beneficial, equitable use of the marine resources that the voters had in mind when we adopted the amendment “Limiting Marine Net Fishing”.

Still standing in the amendment will be the excellent conservation and beneficial use purposes of part (a), the highly effective conservation measure provided by the 500 square foot net limitation for nearshore and inshore Florida waters of part (b)(2) (that’s a 97.5% reduction in allowable net area; that’s MORE than enough fish conservation for now; and the legislature can pass appropriate net size or other limitations for offshore waters if needed), the definitions of (c) (2, 3, 4, and 5), and the implementing language of parts (d), (e), (f), (g) and (h).

Throwing the unconstitutional "net bans" out of the constitutional amendment that says right in its title that it was meant to provide for net "limitations", not "net bans", and keeping its constitutionally valid net limitations intact, would be beneficial for the fish and people, and a logical, rational, safe, politically acceptable resolution of this long standing Florida insanity.

Q: But what if the Florida Supreme Court is as uninformed, misinformed, politically biased, and unconstitutionally discriminatory on this issue as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Marine Patrol have been? What if the Supreme Court justices also can't think straight or act lawfully and decently?

A: I'm convinced the Florida Supreme Court CAN think straight AND act lawfully, respecting and protecting the constitution and the constitutionally guaranteed rights of all parties, and that for all these reasons they will throw out the fatally flawed gill and entangling net bans at their first opportunity just as they corrected law enforcement on shrimp trawls years ago, and will retain the beneficial and constitutional parts of the amendment. That's their job. I think they can do it, IF we net fishers can ever get a case to them. The last two politically biased Florida Attorneys General and the politically biased First District Court of Appeals have spent years and millions trying, successfully so far, to keep us net fishers out of the Florida Supreme Court because they know if and when we get there we will win, just as the shrimpers did and just as we net fishers already have in lower courts.

If the Florida or US Supreme Courts won't or can't do their jobs, the only other solution I can see, other than a sudden going sane by FFWC Commissioners which I don't expect after ten years of their rampant madness, is for the legislature or the people to introduce a new amendment to the constitution stripping out of the net limiting amendment at least the gill and entangling net bans. A second amendment is even more necessary, taking the FFWCC out of the constitution altogether and making it a normal state agency again where it will be subject to the normal constitutional governmental checks and balances provided by the governor, legislature, and judiciary. Perhaps it should be a Division within the Department of Environmental Protection.

Right now the FFWCC appears to think they’re God Almighty, accountable to no one. It’s a dangerous, destructive, unconstitutional situation. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Friends of mine have been physically harmed by it. I want it fixed before anyone else gets hurt or killed.

Q: Changing the Constitution is too big a step for net fishers, isn’t it?

A: No. Changing the constitution might prove an uphill political battle, but nobody ever promised us that sanity and justice in government would be quick, cheap or easy, did they?

I think we the voters can fix the problem which we the voters created when we approved an amendment with technically incorrect NON-definitions in it, and which the FFWCC and some of its employees exacerbated unnecessarily through their illogical misinterpretations of our amendment and their subsequent unconstitutional, obsessive, sick enforcement practices.

Florida voters clearly did not mean to ban net fishing. We meant to limit it severely, to very small, 500 square foot nets in nearshore and inshore waters. The REAL gill nets we were TRYING to ban were the giant ones that were damaging our marine resources, 20,000 square feet and up in many cases, not the little 500 square foot rectangular nets we clearly permitted in the amendment. These little fish nets aren’t gill nets, not by any historical or rational standard except that they, like all fish nets, gill fish. That’s not enough to make them "gill nets", legally. And the constitution provides for them so they CAN’T be "gill nets", legally, even though they, like all fish nets, gill fish.

Q: So what's the bottom line?

A: In my view, almost all of the net troubles of the last 10 years — serious troubles, read all about 'em at FishingForFreedom.net — came from the flawed, unconstitutionally vague and incorrect definitions of gill and entangling nets contained in the amendment and from a few politically biased, discredited Florida government officials — they seem to come and go like the wind — trying to enforce politically biased, historically unjustified, highly irrational and destructive interpretations of fatally flawed definitions of gill and entangling nets.

Q: Can you give us an example?

A: The most egregious example of this destructive irrationality, of course, is the madness inherent in the one-square-inch-maximum mesh size rule for seine nets. This insanity was adopted in 1997, guaranteeing the massive unnecessary killing and waste of fish that we net fishers have seen ever since, killing and waste that the amendment was adopted specifically to prevent! INSANITY!

Small mesh — one-square-inch mesh — gills small fish very efficiently, of course, undersized fish, JUVENILE fish, the most important fish in the sea, the fish that haven't had a chance to reproduce yet, the FUTURE of fish in the sea. These are the MOST IMPORTANT fish the FFWCC is supposed to be protecting and defending, not unnecessarily killing and wasting!

Q: What, I ask, is WRONG with the FFWC commissioners? What happened to their brains?

A: ANOTHER great question. I don't know the answer to it, but I do know that now, instead of correcting their obvious, destructive, unconstitutional mistake and letting fishers fish — even REQUIRING fishers to fish — with net mesh appropriately sized for the target fish so as not to unnecessarily kill and waste the all-important juveniles, as required by the Florida constitution, the FFWCC is trying to expand their insane seine net mesh-size rule to include ALL non-cast-net fish nets in the state! Their rule is INseine!

Q: How crazy can they get?!

A: You tell me. I have been trying ever since 1994 and I honestly have not been able to understand their insanity. I am sick of the mystery of it all, and therefore I offer to pay $100 to ANYONE who can satisfactorily explain to me the FFWCC's incomprehensible, unlawful, unconstitutional-rule-making and the Marine Patrol’s law-breaking misbehavior.

I guess crazier would be to require that cast nets also have the same one-square-inch maximum mesh-size limitation. I wouldn’t put it past them. I guess I shouldn’t have mentioned it. (I heard just yesterday, November 9th, 2004, that a cast netter recently was arrested by a Marine Patrol officer for fishing with a cast net with greater than one-square-inch mesh, and that the FFWCC’s attorney had to call and tell the officer to let the cast-netter go. They’re off their rockers, driven crazy by the craziness in the Constitution.)

Come to think of it, I wonder why the FFWCC hasn’t imposed the same insane one-square-inch mesh size restriction on cast nets? Being certifiably insane about every other fish net in Florida, how can they be sane about cast net mesh size? It makes no sense to me. I just don’t get it.

Is it because sports fishers OWN the FFWCC and don't want to have to live with the same crazy rules they want to impose on commercial fishers? (Misuse of governmental power for perceived personal gain.)

Is it because the definition says in so many words that cast nets AREN’T gill or entangling nets that they can be sane about cast net mesh size, allowing any cast net mesh size needed to suit the particular fishing situation and prevent the unnecessary killing and waste of undersized fish, as required by the amendment?

Can they not understand the simple logic that says if the amendment permits 500 square foot rectangular nets and bans gill nets that 500 square foot rectangular nets can’t be gill nets?

Here is the simple Aristotelian logic of it:

If A equals B, and if B is unequal to C, then A is unequal to C. Right?

Where A = 500 sq ft nets, and B = nets provided for in the constitution, and C = banned gill and entangling nets,

If A is equal to B (500 sq ft nets ARE provided for in the constitution) and if B is not equal to C (nets provided for in the constitution are NOT gill and entangling nets because gill and entangling nets are, supposedly, banned by the constitution), then A is not equal to C (500 sq ft nets are not gill and entangling nets).

Period. Exclamation mark! End of story. Finito!

Q: What's our plan of action?

A: We must get rid of those incorrect and unconstitutionally vague definitions in the net-limiting amendment and the gill and entangling "net ban" portion of the amendment ASAP, so that the honest fishers and their regulators can both get back to honest work. Then maybe some of the serious and unnecessary wounds of the last ten years can begin to heal. Not before.

Ten years of this inexcusable stupidity or deliberate, purposeful violation of the constitutionally guaranteed civil rights of law-abiding citizens is a lot more than enough. Let's eliminate it before someone gets killed over these non-definitions that don't belong in our constitution in the first place. They belong in the trash. Put 'em in the round file.

Q: Will well-earned respect finally be restored in Florida for the hard work that net fishing is and always has been?

A: YES, if we keep fishing. The health of the next generation of Floridians depends in part on the essential nutrients in the seafoods we fishers provide. The state should honor us, not harass, falsely arrest, jail, try, and sometimes bankrupt us for doing our difficult and important work, work that we risk our very lives for, not just the state’s pitiful madness all because of their inability (stupidity) or unwillingness (criminality) to make sense of failed non-definitions in the constitution and their resulting biased, politically motivated, discriminatory, unconstitutional law enforcement practices.

Enough is enough but this has been far too much.

Q: So what are YOU going to do?

A: I'm going Fishing for Freedom! Come on! Let's go together!

Biographical note: (Van Lewis is a fifth generation Floridian, resident of Franklin County, clam farmer, and pissed-off commercial fisherman. He has been a friend of net fishers since he was a small child over half-a-century ago. He is appalled by the insanity in, blatant lawlessness of, and the flagrant disregard and violation of citizen's rights by the FFWCC and the Florida Marine Patrol — rights which are enshrined in both the Florida and U.S. Constitutions. Van may be reached at 850-697-3857 or through the link below.

E-Mail Van Lewis!

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