Ruling Lets Mullet Fisherman Cast Larger Nets - For Now

Oct 30, 2013

In order to prevent overharvesting, Florida voters in 1994 ratified a constitutional ban on what’s called a gill net, which catches fish by entangling their gills in the net’s mesh. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which was put in charge of creating the rules to implement the amendment, also stipulated that mullet fishermen could only use nets whose holes were no larger than 2-inches in size, prompting two decades of court battles. After a year of deliberating, Leon County Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford ruled in favor of commercial fishermen last week. The attorney general’s office challenged the ruling and got an automatic stay, but Wednesday Fulford lifted that stay…

“I do find that there is no irreparable harm if the stay is lifted and that there is in fact irreparable harm if I do not life the stay,” Fulford said at the Wednesday hearing. “The status quo, I believe and in my opinion has resulted in unnecessary killing and waste.”

Commercial fishermen like Keith Ward felt vindicated. But Ward’s excitement is tempered.

“It’s a great thing but it’s like you’re just waiting for the next shoe to fall and them taking it away from you again,” Ward said.

That next shoe is an emergency appeal, which is likely to be filed before the end of the week by the state’s lawyer, John Glogau. It will put a stay back in place as the case awaits a hearing by the First District Court of Appeals.