The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is abandoning a proposal to legalize now-illegal spiny lobster habitat called casitas.

 

FWC biologists called the effort to legalize "impractical" because of several jurisdictional issues and problems with permitting casitas as fishing gear, according to a FWC report.

 

Casitas are artificial habitats, sometimes made out of old bathtubs, hurricane shutters and other debris, and are used to congregate large numbers of lobster.

 

The FWC board will discuss the issue when it meets at 8:30 a.m. Thursday at the Key Largo Hilton, 97000 Overseas Highway. FWC staff will ask the board whether it still wants staff to pursue legalization.

 

"We're done," said marine salver John Coffin, who has worked with other commercial divers to legalize casitas. "I really feel betrayed by (FWC) staff. The biology is good. They didn't want the headaches. Nobody wants the headaches. ... They didn't give their study enough credit."

 

A 2011 study done in conjunction with the FWC found that casitas have minimal impact on the marine environment. The study also found that lobster movement patterns do not appear to be affected by the presence of casitas. After the study was released, the FWC board agreed to look into legalizing casitas.

 

Coffin argued that the commercial trap fishermen had actively lobbied against casitas, and the state agency has caved to their demands.

 

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