All the stinking dead mullet that fouled Anna Maria Island beaches in December brought to light a terribly wasteful practice during mullet spawning season. Fishermen out to catch valuable female mullet full of red roe -- an egg delicacy prized worldwide -- also snare male mullet fat with almost worthless white roe.
The males are tossed overboard, dead, sometimes drifting to our beaches. Yuck.
But that's illegal. After the 2011-2012 mullet season, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission issued an order that clarified the illegal nature of the irresponsible practice. The order states fish must be released into the water alive, not dead.
What good is a regulation without enforcement? FWC maintains it's difficult, what with all the fishermen and few agency staff.
Then FWC should lobby the Legislature for more resources. At a minimum, the agency should require fishermen to sign a memorandum of understanding the regulations upon purchasing a license.
Rotting mullet foul the beaches and harm tourism. Plus, Manatee County pays the cost of collecting the dead fish, at no small cost -- $4,000 in employee wages alone. The thousands of rotting fish filled two 20-yard landfills.
If kept, those male mullet would make for a good food source. Or great fertilizer.