Federal and state fishery managers return to Key Largo for a three-day meeting on South Florida rules and a look at Goliath grouper numbers, beginning July 22.
The South Florida Management Committee, comprising members of fishery management councils from the both Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic panels, will meet in open sessions at the Hilton Key Largo at mile marker 97.
State fishery biologists and managers are working with the committee to determine if special rules can be adopted to cover fish populations in South Florida.
The committee was formed in response to complaints that regulations adopted for waters as far as Texas or North Carolina may not be appropriate for South Florida's subtropical ecosystem.
The Florida Keys, where waters under the jurisdiction of the state and two federal fishery councils converge, have been a focal point. Rules for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, plus national and state parks, also can affect fishing.
Committee members are scheduled to look at fish species, mostly snapper and grouper, that could be candidates for localized South Florida seasons or catch limits.
At 9 a.m. July 24, the Ad Hoc Goliath Grouper Joint Steering Committee will hear an update on stock populations of Goliath grouper, formerly known as jewfish.
Widespread but anecdotal reports of increasing Goliath grouper numbers off Southwest Florida and the Keys have anglers petitioning managers to relax a total harvest ban for the species. The fish can easily top 700 pounds.
Biologists and conservationists have urged caution, saying a regional increase may not signal a recovery for the slow-growing grouper.
A full agenda for the July 22-24 meetings can be found at www.gulfcouncil.org.