The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved several changes to the spiny lobster commercial dive endorsement at its meeting April 15 in Tallahassee.
Commercial harvesters targeting spiny lobster while diving are requiredto have a crawfish commercial dive endorsement along with a saltwater products license (Florida’s basic commercial license) and a restricted species endorsement.
The commercial dive endorsement program was implemented in 2004 in an effort to reduce conflicts within the commercial lobster fishery during a time when the commercial dive fishery was rapidly expanding.
No new or additional commercial dive endorsements have been issued since the program was originally implemented. As part of this effort to manage the size of the commercial dive fishery, fishermen have not been able to transfer endorsements to another person with the exception of transfer to an immediate family member in the case of the death or disablement of the endorsement holder.
The original commercial dive endorsements must have been renewed every year since 2004 in order to still be valid or part of the program.
That year, 404 commercial dive endorsements were issued, and there are currently 252 active commercial dive endorsements today, which is similar to historical participation levels prior to the development of the endorsement program and is a number staff consider to be sustainable.
With this in mind, the Commission approved the following changes to the commercial dive endorsement program that will be effective July 1:
- Extending the moratorium on issuing new or additional licenses indefinitely (this was set to expire July 1).
- Allowing the remaining valid endorsements to be transferred to another fisher.
- Removing the requirement that the endorsement holder must be on board the vessel during trips where lobster are harvested.
- Removing outdated rule language related to qualification requirements, which are no longer applicable, and clarifying remaining language.
These changes will provide new opportunities while maintaining historical participation levels. They will also prevent the commercial spiny lobster dive industry from eventually being phased out.
In addition, the requirement that a commercial dive endorsement holder must be aboard the vessel in order for anyone to harvest is no longer necessary and the elimination of that requirement will also provide further opportunities for participation in the fishery.
For more information, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and select “Commission Meetings” then the “Agenda.” For information about commercial spiny lobster, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Commercial” and “Lobster.”