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Vol. 15 No. 18- February 25, 2015

opinion

One more disappointment

Commercial fishermen’s hopes in Cortez and the rest of Florida were dashed against the rocks last week when the Florida Supreme Court closed the door on their challenge to the gill net ban, which has curtailed their livelihoods for two decades.

Their lawyer is considering challenging the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rules that enforce the net ban at the agency level.

But commercial fishermen, financially crippled by the net ban, have already contributed thousands of dollars to get the case to the Supreme Court, resulting in only a few days in 2012 when lower court decisions allowed them to fish with their banned nets.

Fishing for Freedom’s president has suggested that Florida legislators are another route to try in the attempt to reverse the 1995 constitutional amendment banning gill nets, but many legislators list sportfishing as a hobby in their biographies and would be unlikely to be sympathetic.

Commercial fishermen and sport, or recreational, fishermen are firmly entrenched on opposite sides, but a closer look reveals similarities that they could use to move forward to a better solution.

They both want fish populations to be sustained.

Neither wants marine mammals or turtles to be entrapped.

They both want to use the gear best suited to their purpose.

But the net ban issue is clouded with emotion, politics and rhetoric.

Even the definitions are cloudy; for example, recreational fishing guides are, themselves, commercial enterprises.

It’s time that all fishermen rise above the things that have kept them at war for so long and take a new look at the commonalities they share, so that they can all fish the waters, which belong to everyone.

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