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FWC APPROVES NEW RULES FOR SWORDFISH & BILLFISH

March 27, 2003
CONTACT: Lee Schlesinger (850) 487-0554

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) today approved a rule that applies new federal swordfish bag limits to fish caught by recreational fishermen in state waters. The rule also includes federal recreational reporting requirements for swordfish and billfish caught in state waters and requires all billfish to be landed in a whole condition.

The FWC rule is consistent with a new federal rule that establishes a daily one-fish bag and on-the-water possession limit per person for recreationally harvested swordfish, and a recreational vessel possession limit of three swordfish. These provisions will now apply in both state and federal waters.

In addition, recreational anglers must report all non-tournament landings of billfish and swordfish caught in state waters, as required by federal rule. The FWC rule also requires all billfish to be landed in a whole condition.

Swordfish are considered to be over-fished, and the fishery currently is being rebuilt through size limits and commercial quotas. The new federal recreational bag and vessel limits took effect March 2 and are intended to control increases in mortality levels.

These limits will also help ensure that the North Atlantic swordfish stock continues to rebuild and that the accrued conservation benefits from recent management measures, such as the pelagic longline closures in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, are not compromised. In addition, the limits will help reduce the incentive for the illegal sale of recreationally harvested swordfish.

The recreational reporting requirements for swordfish and billfish are intended to ensure compliance with recreational landings rules and to monitor and account for recreational North Atlantic swordfish and west Atlantic sailfish landings.

The requirement that recreationally caught billfish from state waters be landed with their head, fins, and bill intact is consistent with federal regulations.

Other current regulations require persons who sell swordfish in Florida to possess a valid Saltwater Products License and a federal Limited Access Permit for swordfish. The minimum size limit for all swordfish taken from state or federal waters is 47 inches lower jaw fork length, or 29 inches cleithrum-to-keel length or 33 pounds dressed weight.

Billfish, as defined in FWC rule, includes blue and white marlin, spearfish and sailfish. Harvest of spearfish from state waters, or possession of spearfish in or on state waters or landing and sale of spearfish is prohibited.

Possession of more than one blue marlin, white marlin, or sailfish, either individually or in combination at any time, is prohibited. In addition, it is illegal to buy, sell, trade, barter or exchange any billfish. Exceptions to these provisions are allowed under certain strict conditions for billfish tournament prizes, restaurants and seafood businesses that smoke marlin or sailfish for their customers, and taxidermy.

The minimum size limit for all harvest, possession or landing of blue marlin is 99 inches lower jaw fork length; of white marlin, 66 inches lower jaw fork length; and of sailfish, 63 inches lower jaw fork length.

Hook and line is the only gear allowed to harvest billfish from state waters, and it is illegal to possess any billfish aboard a vessel fishing in state waters with longline gear or any gill or trammel net.

T<---->--<>Lines
Kozlow
 
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