-and what you don’t know may hurt you. As the recreational industry is only beginning to discover. Since the “infamous net ban,” the commercial industry has been severely mismanaged… Now the Commission is beginning to destroy the recreational industry.
From the Archives of Southeastern Fisheries, Courtesy of Executive Director Robert P. Jones.
December 1997 Hotlines Online Issue: CONSTITUTIONAL REVISON COMMISSION AIMS TO RESTRUCTURE FISHERIES
The Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) is in the final stage of developing language to submit to the voters unifying the Marine Fisheries Commission(MFC) with the Game and Freshwater Fish Commission (GFFC). The unification would also bring in all other bureaus / divisions allowing the new Super Commission to have ultimate authority with respect to all fish and wildlife in the state. The Department of Environmental Protections (DEP)Division of Marine Resources would be the first to be abolished or transferred which includes the research buildings, equipment and staff.. The shellfish bureau and the Florida Marine Patrol would also exit the DEP. Most current and former MFC members favor the unification as it removes any oversight by an elected official and gives the Super Commission total control of all the fish & wildlife in Florida and in federal waters adjacent to Florida in many instances. The MFC dislikes bringing their rules before the Cabinet for approval, but thats the only check and balance there is other than the Administrative Procedures Act. CRC Commissioner Clay Henderson, CEO of the Florida Audubon Society and a former Volusia County Commissioner, has stated that he has no ax to grind with the commercial fishermen and is trying to develop language that would bring some consensus to the issue. CRC member James Harold Thompson, former Speaker of the House, objected to the proposal being voted on at the November 14th CRC meeting on the Florida Senate floor stressing that due process, at least as it pertains to marine fisheries,should be guided by the Administrative Procedures Act so that citizens could have the maximum amount of input and participation. The final vote will occur either in December or January. 22 of the 37 members of the CRC must concur to put the issue on the ballot. Concurrently, the Florida Supreme Court has before it a challenge to the proposed Unification Movement and their ruling would certainly clarify where everyone is on this issue. If this Unification is accomplished,it will have more effect on the fishing industry of Florida than anything else that has ever occurred, including the infamous net ban.
January 1998 Hotlines Online Issue: SFA CHALLENGES BALLOT SUMMARY SUCCESSFULLY
Southeastern Fisheries Association challenged the petition supported by a variety of anti-commercial fishing groups including the Florida Audubon Society, Coastal Conservation Association, Florida Wildlife Federation, Florida League of Anglers, EarthJustice Legal Defense Fund, Sierra Club, and the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Committee, which would have combined the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission with the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission. On January 8, 1998, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Associations challenge. The Justices said in their Opinion, that as in A s k e w , the problem lies not with what the summary says, but, rather with what it does not say. I d . At 156. The summary does not explain to the reader that the power to regulate marine life lies solely with the legislature, which has delegated that power to not only the Marine Fisheries Commission but also the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Agriculture. Though the summary states that the purpose of the amendment is to unify the Marine Fisheries Commission with the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, these two entities do not share the same status. Despite the common label commission, the former is a legislative creation while the latter enjoys independent constitutional stature. Thus the proposed amendment does not unify the two so much as it strips the legislature of its exclusive power to regulate marine life and grants it to a Constitutional entity. The summary does not sufficiently inform the public of this transfer of power. Accordingly, because the ballot summary does not meet the requirements of section 101.161, the title, summary and proposed text must be stricken from the ballot. It is so ordered.
January 1998 Hotlines Online Issue: UNIFICATION OF GAME & FISH AND MFC PASSES REVISION COMMISSION
On January 12, the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC), in a 24-0 vote, decided to include the unification of the Game & Freshwater Fish Commission and the Marine Fisheries Commission on the November ballot despite the Supreme Court ruling, outlined in the previous article. At this point the CRC will have to write another ballot summary, which CANNOT be challenged. On the motion of Clay Henderson, CEO for Florida Audubon and a voting member of the CRC, the issue was steamrolled to passage. The unification places a whole class of citizens outside the normal protection of due process and the new due process will only be that which is established by four (Today it’s seven. Addition from FFF) appointed commissioners. If such a blatant attack were perpetrated on any other class of citizens other than commercial fishermen, the media would be raising all kinds of hell but in this instance they seem to be all for it. The only hope the fishermen have lies with the federal courts.
Thank you for the submission Mr. Jones! FFF