Keep Florida Fishing thanks Florida legislature for passing priority environmental measures and funding in support of conservation efforts

Tallahassee, Fla. – March 19, 2020 – Keep Florida Fishing (KFF), an advocacy arm of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), today thanked the Florida legislature for passing the FY 2020-2021 budget and multiple bills related to water quality and fisheries habitat that are now headed to Governor DeSantis’ desk for signature. The $93.2 billion budget includes more than $650 million for water quality and Everglades restoration, $20 million for coral reefs and resiliency, and almost $3 million to improve data collection for marine recreational fisheries through a new State Reef Fish Survey.  Priority bills passed this legislative session include the Clean Waterways Act (HB 1343/SB 712) and the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve (HB 1061/SB 1042).

“Florida is known as the Fishing Capital of the World and we are thrilled to have such strong legislative leadership in support of our mission for anglers to have clean waters, abundant fisheries and access to both,” said Gary Jennings, Director, Keep Florida Fishing. “We particularly thank Senators Debbie Mayfield, Rob Bradley, and Ben Albritton, and Representatives Holly Raschein, Travis Cummings, Bobby Payne, Blaise Ingoglia, Toby Overdorf, and Ralph Massullo for their tireless efforts on spearheading the Clean Waterways Act, the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve and expanding the Gulf Reef Fish Survey statewide.”

“The American Sportfishing Association understands how critically important Florida is to the sportfishing industry, supporting more than 106,000 jobs and providing $11.5 billion in economic activity in the state. This thoughtful budget and legislation will allow this important economic driver to continue. We appreciate the Legislature’s leadership as well as Governor DeSantis, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on water quality, Everglades restoration, habitat restoration and conservation, and strong fisheries management for the state’s more than four million anglers who contribute more than $56.7 million for fisheries conservation,” said Kellie Ralston, Southeast Fisheries Policy Director,  American Sportfishing Association.

Clean Waterways Act

The legislation requires the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to submit reports and recommendations relating to transfer of Onsite Sewage Program in DOH to DEP; transfers Onsite Sewage Program from DOH to DEP; requires Water Management Districts to submit consolidated annual reports to Office of Economic and Demographic Research (OEDR); removes provisions relating to DOH technical review & advisory panel & research & review advisory committee; requires DEP to conduct bottled water study; prohibits approval of certain consumptive use permits; authorizes nutrient reducing onsite sewage treatment and disposal system (OSTDS); creates OSTDS technical advisory committee; requires basin management action plans to include plans & cooperative elements; requires DEP to submit cost estimates to OEDR; provides priority funding for utility projects; provides for biosolids management & water quality monitoring; revises administrative penalties; prohibits legal rights for environment.

Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve

The Florida Aquatic Preserve Act of 1975 was created to ensure that the state-owned submerged lands in areas that have exceptional biological, aesthetic, and scientific value are set aside as aquatic preserves or sanctuaries for the benefit of future generations. Currently, Florida has 41 aquatic preserves, encompassing about 2.2 million acres. Aquatic preserves serve many valuable ecological and economic functions, including providing nurseries for juvenile fish and other aquatic life and providing habitat for shorebirds. Aquatic preserves are also valuable for recreation, providing a host of outdoor activities such as fishing, swimming, and boating. HB 1061/SB 1042 creates the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve on Florida’s Gulf Coast and specifies the boundaries of the preserve.

Gulf Reef Fish Survey

The Gulf Reef Fish Survey (GRFS) was developed in 2015 to improve and modernize reef fish recreational data collection.  A 45-day red snapper season that would have been unheard of just a few short years ago is now possible due to the thousands of Florida anglers participating in the Gulf Reef Fish Survey.  Expanding this data collection tool statewide will dramatically improve fisheries management at the state and federal levels through enhanced recreational catch information for management decisions.