Florida’s Sport Fish Restoration Program

Florida’s Sport Fish Restoration Program

Florida has always taken a leadership role
in the management of our saltwater fisheries, fisheries research, and extensive outreach
and education efforts to keep anglers informed. These programs along with our laboratories
rank among the finest in the world, generating invaluable data to provide management with
the information necessary to develop a hands-on approach to protecting our fish stocks and
their habitat. Because Florida is surrounded by oceans and boasts more than 500 native
species of saltwater fish, this proactive approach to fisheries management is crucial
to the sustainability of marine resources. (MS on camera) I’m Mark Sosin and fishing
Florida’s waters has been an ongoing passion since I stood waist high to my father. Join
me as we take a closer look at some programs that help to conserve fisheries resources
and where the money comes from to pay for them. Some 60 years ago, Congressman John
Dingell of Michigan and Senator Edwin Johnson of Wyoming had a vision. They wanted the Federal
government to help support fisheries across the land, so they sponsored the Sport Fish
Restoration Act establishing cooperation between state and federal governments to provide funds
for everything from fisheries research to teaching youngsters to fish. This legislation puts a 10 percent excise
tax on almost all fishing tackle and on certain boating items. The tax is paid by the manufacturer
and passed along to the consumer, so every time you buy tackle, you are contributing
to this valuable fund. Then, in 1984, Congressman John Breaux and Senator Malcolm Wallop authored
a bill that expanded Dingell/Johnson and incorporated a percentage of the tax on marine fuel. As
part of the program, 15 percent of this money would be earmarked for the building and improvement
of boating facilities. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service collects
these funds and then redistributes them to the states based on the number of licensed
anglers and the total land and water area of the state. No state gets less than 1 percent
or more than 5 percent of the fund. Each state is then required to cover 25 percent of the
cost of any project. Sport Fish Restoration funding pays for the other 75 percent. So
anytime you see the Sport Fish Restoration logo on a boat ramp, remember that you helped
pay for it by purchasing your fishing tackle and boat fuel. It’s important to recognize that on a state
basis, most of the revenue from fishing license sales in Florida complements funds through
Sport Fish Restoration to help finance a number of projects for the benefit of fishermen and
boaters. Angler education, stock enhancement, artificial reefs, and a variety of game fish
research projects are all recipients of these monies. With the help of Sport Fish Restoration funds,
more than 200 boat ramps around the state are maintained and more are being built. These
ramps offer access to some of the most productive fishing waters in Florida. In order to maintain
this level of fishing productivity, fisheries managers rely on marine fisheries research,
which provides vital information to inform the management process and help maintain sustainable
populations. A variety of research projects are conducted annually around the state to
gather information on various life history aspects of saltwater fish. Some researchers
monitor the health of sport fish, while others continually collect biological statistics
such as distribution, abundance, and behavior for a number of different species. For example,
biologists use genetic samples obtained through angler catches of tarpon to gain insight into
their movement and distribution as well as their ability to withstand fishing pressures. Starting in 1996, Florida has taken a proactive
approach to promote fisheries conservation early in an angler’s career by holding Kids’
Fishing Clinics. The clinics focus on teaching participants the basics of fishing and catch
and release practices, as well as the concepts of marine resource management and personal
stewardship of the environment . As a part of clinic activities, participants get to
interact firsthand with marine creatures at the touch tank, which is always a popular
station. 13 of these clinics are held around the state annually with at least 5,000 young
anglers participating each year and some 70,000 since the project began. Thousands of parents
take part in clinic activities with their children, as well as countless volunteers
from local communities, without whom the clinics could not function. Now numbering more than 2,500, artificial
reefs dot the Florida coast, strategically placed in water depths from 12 to 300 feet.
These reefs provide critical habitat for countless marine species including invertebrates and
help to concentrate fish populations. Published coordinates makes it easy for anyone to locate
these reefs. The Federal Sport Fish Restoration Program grants some $700,000 annually to fund
the placement of artificial reefs in Florida and to scientifically monitor the existing
ones. In the last 30 years, Florida has spent some $18 million dollars on artificial reef
development. In return, these reefs stimulate Florida’s economy because millions of dollars
are spent each year by fishermen and divers who are lured to the bounties of our artificial
reefs. Sport Fish Restoration has also made it possible
to produce a number of Marine Fisheries-related publications. Boating and Angling Guides produced
by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, in partnership with many other
organizations, offer information on major waterways in more than 25 coastal regions
around the state. Each one contains a wealth of data on marinas, boat ramps, the location
of artificial reefs, and natural resources such as seagrasses and marshes. All of these
guides are provided free of charge to the public. An Angler and Boater Outreach Exhibit featuring
a 500 gallon aquarium containing various fish species travels to several fishing-related
shows and venues each year. You may also see FWC staff at your local boat ramp, handing
out publications on fisheries conservation and answering any questions you may have.
These local appearances are part of a new program called Angler Intercepts. Outreach
events such as these give FWC staff an opportunity to share information with the public on a
personal basis and make people aware of current Sport Fish Restoration funded projects and
how they can participate in fisheries conservation. A series of six posters designed to help anglers
identify and distinguish between different types of marine fish species includes baitfish,
groupers, snappers, pelagics, inshore species, and jacks. Each poster provides detailed illustrations
of the various fish, helping anglers to identify them. These posters can be framed and hung
on the wall for continuous reference. Another publication, Fishing Lines: An Angler’s
Guide to Florida’s Marine Resources, is published with the help of Sport Fish Restoration.
It offers information on Florida’s marine fishing resources, a detailed explanation
of major fish habitats, benefits of catch-and-release, and an illustrated guide to 114 species of
fish. Four page brochures called Sea Stats cover a number of marine species, offering
basic scientific information about each one, including ongoing research of the species.
They are designed to help anglers better understand the life cycles of the species they are targeting. Finally, a series of short videos, such as
the one you’re watching now, have been produced to provide interesting programs for fishing
clubs, or they can be obtained for individual viewing. These videos highlight Sport Fish
Restoration – funded programs in Florida and present a variety of information to the
viewer that can be utilized to help protect and conserve Florida’s marine resources.
The DVDs, along with the other products mentioned, are available free of charge from the FWC,
courtesy of the Sport Fish Restoration program. Florida’s fisheries not only provide recreational
activities for countless residents, but they also serve as a magnet to draw great numbers
of visitors to the Sunshine State. Tourism is a major industry in Florida and helps to
fuel our economy. Fishing in Florida is big business. This is one of the many reasons
it is imperative that we maintain the quality of our fisheries and the quality of the habitat
that supports it. With the help of Sport Fish Restoration grants, the money is available
to support marine fisheries research, as well as programs that educate anglers to our needs
and help them understand they are a fisheries manager every day they are on the water. When
all of us work together, Florida will remain the Fishing Capital of the World for years
to come.

local_offerevent_note September 25, 2019

account_box Gilbert Heid


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