October 27, 2004

Contact: Kim Jamerson (850) 488-1638

The 1st District Court of Appeal, on Tuesday, affirmed and upheld the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) declaratory statement that asserted a so-called “hybrid” commercial saltwater fishing net was illegal.

The court's decision, which settled the case of Ronald Fred Crum and Keith Ward v. FWC, supported the FWC's interpretation of Article X, Section 16 of the Florida Constitution in prohibiting nets with larger mesh size designed to entangle marine fish. Current FWC rule prohibits use of a seine with a mesh size larger than 2 inches stretched mesh. A seine is a non-entangling net used to encircle and concentrate fish for harvesting.

In March 2003, Crum and Ward filed a petition for declaratory statement, asking whether their "hybrid" net, with a mesh size larger than two inches to select legal-size mullet, violated the constitutional provision or FWC rules. The petitioners argued their “hybrid” net did not violate the constitution or FWC rules, because it was a non-entangling piece of net gear that would catch fish in a manner other than a seine.

In June 2003, the FWC issued its declaratory statement ruling the “hybrid” net was, in fact, illegal. The Commission stated that based on the specifications “it is clear the ‘hybrid’ net is intended to entangle.” With its latest decision, the 1st District Court of Appeal has upheld the FWC’s position.

“I think it’s significant, because there has been a lot of discussion about ‘hybrid’ nets and whether the constitution left room for the creation of a net that could get around the two-inch rule. I think the court put that issue to rest with this ruling,” said Jim Antista, FWC General Counsel.

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