Research provided by the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust in conjunction with local guides in the Florida Keys has provided state biologists with information suggesting that the May through July closed season for harvesting spawning permit may not be long enough.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2011 created a Special Permit Zone — state and federal waters south of Cape Florida in the Atlantic and south of Cape Sable in the Gulf of Mexico — to protect spawning permit from over-harvesting.
However, BTT is now proposing an expansion of the protected spawning months to include the month of April as well. The group’s ongoing Permit Acoustic Tracking Project in conjunction with two Keys guides’ associations has revealed that large numbers of these fish actually start showing up in April, when harvesting is still allowed. BTT says many guides back this proposed expansion to help protect not only offshore spawners on the wrecks and reefs, but permit that travel from the flats into deeper water to spawn. “The permit we fish for on the flats are out on the wrecks and reefs, spawning and being harvested in April. Extending the closed harvest season to April provides needed protection for those spawning fish that drive our industry," says Captain Doug Kilpatrick, commodore of the Lower Keys Guides association.
After more research, BTT is asking that FWC pushes the expansion of this regulation to close in April. Members of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association and the Lower Keys Guides Association support the concept of extending the closed season and hope that it will be the outcome at the December 2017 FWC Commission meeting in Gainesville.
“This project is an excellent example of how information that is gained only though scientific research can be utilized toward the protection of a cherished and important game fish species here in the Keys,” says Capt. Pete Frezza, a member of the FKFGA board. “It shows why finding answers through Science is so important.”