Using commercial gill nets in Florida waters -- banned for 18 years -- suddenly became legal for nearly a week in early November.
No reports their use were seen in Florida Keys waters before the ban was reinstated Nov. 6 by an appeals court ruling, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
"If there were, we didn't hear about it," said Officer Bobby Dube, FWC spokesman for Monroe County. "Now we're back at it" to enforce established rules, he said Tuesday.
Current law allows fishermen to have two 500-square-foot nets with 2-inch squares. Fishermen want the squares to be 3 inches. They believe nets with larger mesh sizes (gill nets) can catch target species -- primarily mullet -- while allowing juveniles to escape.
For several days after Leon County Circuit Court Judge Jackie Fulford ordered the longstanding net ban lifted in late October because of what she described as a "legal absurdity," FWC officers were prevented by her decision from enforcing the rules.
But on Nov. 6, the First District Court of Appeal reinstated a stay on lifting the ban pending further legal review.
The Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen's Association joined other state commercial groups to seek status as an intervener in support of changing laws on gill nets.
"Nets can be a responsible method of harvest with reasonable limitations in place," said Bill Kelly, the group's executive director. "What the industry is seeking is to have the FWC [board of directors] sit down with fishermen to discuss how to better manage fisheries."
"The industry hopes to come to the table with the FWC and interested environmental groups to see if there is common ground to better manage underutilized fisheries like Spanish mackerel."