OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK; Swordfish Permits Given OK by Feds

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Byline: JIM SUTTON

The National Marine Fisheries Service has issued exempted fishing permits to three commercial swordfish longliners for "research" purposes off Florida's East Coast and the Charleston Bump. Despite heated objections, the NMFS has reopened these areas that were closed in 2000 after a lawsuit filed by conservation groups.

The permit approval was given for different reasons, including determining whether protected areas are working.

"You do not need a bogus research program to make the determination that the removal of the swordfish longline fleet triggered a dramatic rebound of the pelagic fisheries," said Coastal Conservation Association's Florida Executive Director, Ted Forsgren. "These research permits are just part of the NMFS plan to put the longline fleet back into protected areas... There are elements within the agency that favor large-scale take by limited numbers of commercial boats."

FWC STUDIES RULE CHANGES

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meets Feb. 6-7 at the Bay Point Marriot Resort in Panama City Beach.

Items for discussion include: Changing the definition of nuisance wildlife and categorizing wild hogs as free-roaming hogs that legally can't be claimed as domestic hogs in private ownership; increased recreational use permit fees for four wildlife management areas, including Twelve-Mile Swamp; black bass and speckled perch size limits changes on Lake Okeechobee; a final public hearing on new rules reducing the recreational bag limit on Gulf snapper from four to two and establishing a zero bag limit for captains and crews of charter boats and reducing the recreational season for snapper in the Gulf from April 15-Oct 30 to June 1- Sept. …