When the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meets for day two of its September meeting in St. Augustine on Friday, staff members will give recommendations for two items that directly affect Manatee County.
After the review of comments made during an Aug. 11 public meeting in Ellenton about making the Dot-Dash-Dit Islands a critical wildlife area, the staff will present their changes to the original proposal of a no-humans-allowed, 100-foot barrier around the three mangrove islands at the mouth of the Braden River.
At the commission meeting, staff will present a new proposal, which includes the removal of an establishment area that collectively surrounded the three islands, the reduction of the barrier to 25 feet on the south and southwest sides of two largest islands, Dot and Dash, and keeping the 100-foot barrier around Dit.
The islands were suggested to become a critical wildlife area because many shore birds, including Tampa Bay’s only coastal colony of wood storks, roost in the mangrove islands and human activity could have a negative effect on their nests.
At the August public meeting, the proposed 100-foot barrier was openly welcomed by concerned citizens and environmental groups like Sierra Club and Friends of Wildlife, even adding that they’d be for a wider barrier to protect birds.
But boaters and photographers argued such a large barrier would affect their livelihoods. Boaters saw danger in smaller channels, and photographers couldn’t get stunning wildlife pictures up close.
These changes won’t be finalized until the commission’s November meeting.
FWC staff will also recommend clarifying an outdated rule on gill net use in Terra Ceia Bay in Manatee County.
As of Jan. 1, 1993, a paragraph of the Manatee County Special Acts of Local Application prohibits the use of gill nets with a stretched mesh size of less than three inches within the bay, but reads as though a gill net with mesh three inches or greater is allowed.
Because the Net Limitation Amendment, put into Florida’s Constitution in 1994, doesn’t allow for gill nets to be used in nearshore or inshore waters, the staff will recommend removing the paragraph to dispel any confusion.