THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
There is little question: There is not much worse on Earth than a thief. The complexity of certain issues sometimes take years to understand. But I think I’m getting to the bottom of it after this much time in the state of Florida. We have some serious problems. We need serious people to handle them. I know many of the people who would be instrumental in reaching solutions.
Challenging times for our marine resources: Common thieves are ruining entire fisheries to line their own pockets. Using methods that were legal 25 years ago, our resources have enough challenges without these people of ill repute and low morals to pillage things that belong to us all. It is disconcerting not only that this is bad but that it is actually getting worse.
I have had extensive contact with people who are fully aware of these situations. They can name off names of regular poachers and they can give great examples of how we are failing to protect our fisheries. We have a responsibility, each one of us personally but the bigger burden falls on the state. It is their job to protect what belongs to us. My own contact with the state on various issues has been contentious. But it has NEVER been that way with the officers who are out there incurring risks and doing so for very little appreciation (salaries are not high).
The best guys, the ones who went out and made net cases regularly, so good at their jobs they received promotions to move them up the chain of command. There are enough of us who are so deeply concerned, it is time to start talking about it more and see if the FWC can answer the bell. Florida Anglers United will be helpful in so many other ways but no question: Most of the people I have been talking to are Executive Panel members anyway.
The sad fact is, the promotion of those individuals leaves a big gap in enforcement. We just don’t have the newer officers going out to make the net cases. And the poachers know it. They also know about allocation of resources. Two examples: Hunting Season. Scallop Season. FWC enforcement is utilized strong in those regions where hunting and scalloping are the main event and other areas of the state are unprotected. The bragging of career poachers about their massive catches of fish by illegal method, so brash (and sad) that we are fully aware: We might not have pompano to catch the rest of this year. That damages my business, but the bottom line is, this is a fishery that is being so decimated that no one else gets to enjoy it because of the extensive poaching.
Another sad fact: There is gear that because of the situation, should be outright illegal but is not because of the Federal government. Solutions? Look to Texas. You can’t even have a piece of gill net on the wall of your restaurant as decoration because IT IS ILLEGAL GEAR. Florida, only illegal if deployed inside of nine miles. Where are all of these nets being used? In our own backyards. And it isn’t being enforced. Look at the seine net loophole. Also a mistake, a lot of the nets are illegal because they exceed the length measurement. What that does: It makes these nets as lethal as the gill nets. This equipment is just bad. In addition to the loss of the fish that the rest of us would be enjoying, these nets kill turtles. These nets kill manatees.
These nets can kill it all. The people doing it are brazen about it and an even bigger problem exists- They may not be punished for it even if caught!! Not kidding. Judges may dismiss charges on clear felony net cases. I would like to see all the final decisions on every net case and evaluate each judge on their decisions. I would like to share it all with you. I guess there is one thing worse than a thief. A thief that gets a free pass.
What do I do? As a citizen, it is best not to get directly involved for safety reasons. Let the officers handle it. It is their job. It is suggested that you call the Poacher Hotline for obvious infractions. I would also recommend calling your county Sheriff as well. They have the authority to also make arrests and citations. Be as detailed as you can. If you establish a rapport with an officer, that may become a real asset moving forward. My own direct contact with field agents leads to faster responses than going through the dispatcher.
What do I do, part two? Write your letters. Write to your legislators. Write to your other leaders. Write to the Wildlife Commission. Write to me: I’ll have your thoughts shared with the Florida Angler United members and Panel. Honestly, it is all what we all need to do more often. Make the effort and help the agencies that it is their job to protect our resouces A) Get more information that is helpful and B) They will be more inspired to achieve their liability of protecting what belongs to us all.
The Poacher Hotline: 888-404-FWCC; Cell phone users can reach us at *FWC or #FWC, depending on your service provider.
Most cell phones allow users to send text messages directly to an email address. You can text Tip@MyFWC.com ; standard usage fees may apply.
Supply as much detailed information such as the location of the offender, the boat description, number of people on board, clothing, vehicle information and give the dispatcher your phone number. Do this discreetly. You do not want to have direct contact with these people.
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