Issues of Interest

RED SNAPPER In April, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a nine-day season for the harvest of red snapper in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The season started June 1st and ended on June 10th. To make up for lost opportunity due to Tropical Storm Colin, Governor Scott sent a request to the U.S. Department of Commerce on June 8th to extend the season by three weekend days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) before July 1st. The Governor’s request was granted and the season  closed in federal waters Sunday, June 12th, at 12:01 a.m., extended by two extra days.

MANATEES The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering removing manatees from the endangered species list. Manatee populations have grown in Florida to roughly 6,300 since 1991 when there were less than 1,300. Critics say removing the animals from the list may lead to habitat loss being accelerated by looser restrictions on coastal development or other human impacts that have been prevented due to their current endangered status.

NILE CROCODILES IN FLORIDA Researchers recently confirmed that three crocodiles captured in 2009, 2011 and 2014 near Miami, are Nile crocodiles. The captured crocs matched genetically, meaning they are related to one another, but did not match Nile crocs kept at licensed Florida attractions. This means they were probably brought to Florida illegally by an unlicensed reptile collector. About 1,000 American crocodiles, less aggressive than their Nile relatives, live in mangroves and estuaries of South Florida.

In related news, tragedy struck a Nebraska family visiting Disney World on the evening of June 14th when an alligator dragged their 2-year-old from the shore of a lagoon on Disney property. The toddler’s body was recovered the next day. Alligator attacks in Florida are rare, with deaths even more rare. Only 16 fatal alligator attacks have been recorded in the state since 1997.

BEAR HUNT The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission met June 22nd-23rd to decide whether or not to allow another black bear hunt this fall. Last year’s controversial hunt netted 304 bears in two days. Officials are using information from last year’s hunt and feedback from several groups to help make their case about whether they should allow another hunt later this year, delay another hunt until 2017 or prohibit a hunt for the next several years. Supporters say hunts manage the State’s growing bear population and reduce human-bear interactions. Critics want more bear-proof trash cans and the relocation of nuisance bears into wilderness areas. The commission ultimately decided not to hold a bear hunt this fall, on a 4-3 vote.

CITRUS The citrus industry received a slightly rosier forecast, predicting about 7 percent more fruit this season than earlier this year. The forecast still shows a 16 percent reduction from last year. Citrus greening remains the number one culprit. Meanwhile, the Department of Citrus presented a preliminary budget for 2016-17 in mid-May with an overall budget reduction of $9.7 million or 32 percent over the previous year. On June 14th the Florida Citrus Commission voted for a $20.7 million budget that will eliminate 20 of 46 positions at the Department.

BLUEBERRIES An unusually warm, wet winter delayed blueberry production this year in Florida. While there was not a shortage of fruit, the delay resulted in lower prices for Florida’s farmers as they had to compete with other states when their berries were ready for market at the same time.

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK STAMP The U.S. Postal Service is offering a block of 16 National Park “Forever” stamps to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Included in the stamps is an image of Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States.

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