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Banquet seeks to protect anglers’ rights

The Coastal Conservation Association banquet is close on the calendar, scheduled for Feb 26., and it represents another opportunity for anglers to ensure that our resources remain property of this state’s residents.

CCA of Florida has 28 chapters from Pensacola to Key West and the banquet is a fund-raising event to support an advocacy effort to protect recreational fishermen’s rights.

The banquet begins at 6 p.m. and starts with an open bar, followed by a raffle, silent auction, and a Texas Cattle Company streak dinner around 7:30 p.m.

The live auction will consist of numerous exotic trips. These include trips to the Bahamas, dunk hunting in Texas, offshore fishing in Costa Rica (at the plush Los Suenos Resort), quail hunting in Tallahassee, a Yamaha outboard engine, a Hell’s Bay flats boat, Nebraska pheasant hunting, African photo safari, dove hunting in Argentina, a trip to the Keys for a week in a private condominium, and original pieces of art work by local artist Robin Rowley Bowman.

Tickets are $85 per person or $150 per couple and includes open bar, dinner and a CCA membership. For tickets call Brian Gorski at 531-4019 or e-mail bgorski@ccaflorida.org. Tickets will not be sold at the door.

“If it wasn’t for CCA, believe me, we wouldn’t have the fish we have out there,” said CCA member Capt. Scott Moore. “CCA is the most important environment management tool that we have as fishermen. I’ve supported CCA from day one.”

CCA is, in essence, the voice of marine conservation, and its history has been both controversial and pivotal.

“In particular is the constitutional amendment to ban gill nets,” said CCA Florida executive director Ted Forsgren. “That was our single biggest positive thing to happen in the last 30-40 years for Florida. The populations of snook and redfish and forage fish have improved.”

CCA also played an integral part in grouper management in federal waters. “I think we’re pleased to say we had a significant impact on how the angler restrictions came out,” Forsgren said.

CCA supported reductions and supported protection goals, but Forsgren said CCA didn’t feel that the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s proposed plan considered the factors that the unstable economy and increased fuel priced had already severely reduced angler efforts.

In the end, an original plan of a four-month closure and one-fish bag limit on gag grouper did not pass. Instead, we are left with the current regulations of a two-month closed season (closed until March 31) and a five-aggregate bag of grouper. For gags, that’s a two-bag limit in all waters. For reds, it’s a two-bag limit in state waters (less than 9 nautical miles offshore) and one-bag limit in federal waters.

“We feel we did a real good job in advocating for anglers and our resources,” Forsgren said.

And the CCA banquet is yet another attempt at conserving these resources.

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