CORTEZ – Commercial fisherman and Cortez businessman John Banyas came up short in his attempt to get the state-issued special activity license that he sought to harvest mullet and thread fin herring threatened by red tide.
On Wednesday, Sept. 26, Banyas went to Tallahassee to make his appeal to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) during their commission meeting.
“I spoke and they listened to me. They understood exactly where I was coming from and what I saying. The commission thought it was a good idea, and they referred me to their legal counsel after the meeting,” Banyas said after returning home.
“I sat down and talked with them, and we tried to find a way to make it happen. When they reviewed the paperwork and tried to find a legal way to do it, they really couldn’t find one. They said we’d have to change the Florida Constitution and the amendment for the net ban (enacted in the 1990s). The three-mile fishing line is written in the Constitution, so I’d have to try to change the Constitution in order to do it. That isn’t really feasible, so I pretty much ran into a wall, but I feel good about trying,” Banyas said.
“They understood I was trying to help and trying to do the right thing. I got to meet with the FWC commissioners face to face, and they really wanted to help. I showed them the $25,000 check from the recent long table fundraising event we did on the beach that raised money for Mote Marine and START,” he added.
Banyas sought the special activity license to use a 500-square-foot nylon net with a two-to-four-and-a-half-inch mesh size to harvest mullet. He also sought state permission to use one-inch mesh purse seine nets at one mile out instead of three miles out, but only within five miles of a red tide outbreak or an anticipated red tide outbreak, as determined by FWC.
Banyas thinks it makes sense to catch and use the fish before the red tide kills them, and he felt this approached could be used in future years, beyond any red tide outbreaks currently taking place.
Before Banyas attended the FWC meeting, the Bradenton Beach City Commission agreed the city would serve as the license holder for those limited fishing activities. Banyas sought the City Commission’s assistance because a special activity license permit can only be issued to a municipality, a research organization or an educational organization. The village of Cortez is in Manatee County and does not have its own city government.
“My concern is to utilize the fish before they are wasted,” Banyas told Bradenton Beach commissioners in early September. He had already received letters of support from the Manatee County Commission and Congressman Vern Buchanan and had reached out to State Sen. Bill Galvano as well.