FWC ANNOUNCES RULE CHANGES FOR 4 KEYS SPECIES

Dolphinfish, also known as mahi-mahi, is just one of the species undergoing regulatory changes to prevent overfishing. CONTRIBUTED.

At its meeting on May 3 and 4 in Gainesville, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a number of immediate and potential rule changes for species commonly harvested both recreationally and commercially in the Florida Keys. A rule change for recreationally harvested dolphinfish (mahi-mahi) approved at the March FWC meeting also took effect on May 1. A summary of the rule changes for each species is listed here. For reference purposes, state waters refer to the area from shore to three nautical miles on the Atlantic side of the Keys, and from shore to nine nautical miles on the Gulf side. More information regarding fishing regulations is at MyFWC.com/marine. Alternatively, the Fish Rules app uses an angler’s phone’s GPS to track his or her current location and provide the appropriate regulations in real time.

The proposed redfish management regions. FWC/Contributed.

Dolphinfish (mahi-mahi)

Effective May 1, the recreational bag limit has been reduced from 10 to 5 fish per person in Atlantic state waters. The private recreational vessel limit has been reduced from 60 to 30 fish per vessel in Atlantic state waters.

Blueline Tilefish

The 2022 recreational blueline tilefish season will be temporarily modified. Typically open from May 1 through Aug. 31 in Atlantic state and federal waters, the recreational season will close early in state waters this year on July 26. The shortened season matches the season recently announced by NOAA for federal waters and is intended to prevent overfishing over the course of the 2022 season.

Cobia

A number of changes to cobia regulations for recreational and commercial anglers will take effect July 1. The minimum size limit will increase from 33 to 36 inches (measured by fork length) for all state waters. The commercial bag limit will be reduced from two to one fish per harvester per day in Atlantic state waters, and both the recreational and commercial vessel limit will be reduced from six to two fish per vessel per day in Atlantic state waters.

The changes are intended to match pending regulations in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic federal waters and were deemed necessary after a recent stock assessment determined that the cobia stock is being overfished.

Redfish

FWC granted initial approval for changes in management regions and regulations for redfish in state waters. Under the proposed changes, the Florida Keys would fall under the Southwest management region, which would see the current eight-fish vessel limit reduced to two fish. Captains and crew would be prohibited from retaining a bag limit while on a for-hire trip, and the off-the-water transport limit would be reduced from six to four fish per person. 

“With this new management approach, this agency is committed to continuing to work with our partners and stakeholders in finding solutions for redfish,” said FWC chairman Rodney Barreto.

A final rule hearing will be held later this year after FWC staff continue to gather input on the proposed rule changes.

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Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.