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Sample essay topic, essay writing: Net Bans - 1840 words
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In July of 1995, Florida put into effect a new law banning the use of gill nets in all inshore water of Florida. The law contained two significant provisions: 1) some non-gill nets would be allowed, but maximum size would now be limited to 500 square feet; and 2) unemployment compensation would be available to affected netters through a 20 million dollar fund set aside to purchase the nets that would be made obsolete(Stearns, par.5). This ban on nets has led to a dramatic comeback for a variety of fish species, including the Spanish mackerel and Florida mullet. In the following essay I intend to show the ban laws, what they encompass whom they affected, as well as their reaction. Most importantly, I intend to show the ban has made an overall improvement on Florida's marine environment. Over the past 100 years, Florida has been known for having some of the best recreational fishing as well as marine environments.
Locals and tourists alike could pick any given day to spend on the water and return with a wide variety of game fish. Unfortunately, over the past decade this trend has been on the decline. The cause of this decrease in the population of Florida's marine environment as well as in other parts of the world, is the indiscriminate use of the monofilament fishing net (par.2). One of the areas that have seen just how destructive these nets can be, is the Florida Coast. In 1990, commercial gill-netters harvested 26 million pounds of mullet (DeYoung, par.56)
In 1994, Florida's became alarmed when the mullet spawning population plummeted to about 15 percent of normal. They also felt the impact this loss of forage food had on game fish. One of the largest causes of this plummet is the lucrative market in the Far East for mullet row, which had almost completely decimated Florida's stock of these fish (Stearns, par.2-3). Due to this large decline, the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) placed restrictions on recreational and commercial harvest of mullet. In 1992, recreational fishermen were now limited to fifty fish per boat per day, with no size limit, while commercial fishermen have no 'bag limit', but are required to release any mullet under eleven inches in length.
The results of the restrictions lowered the harvest on mullet by recreational fishermen from four million to one million pounds. There was a 75 percent reduction in recreational harvest as a result of the FMC's restrictions. On the other hand, the commercial industry landings went up, until the collapse began in 1993 (DeYoung, Par.52-57). After the restrictions failed in 1993, the people of Florida demanded something be done. So in November of 1994, they went to the polls and voted 72 percent to 28 percent for a constitutional amendment to ban all gill nets in state waters (Julavits, Par.2,4).
When the law went into effect in July 1995, it contained two significant provisions: 1) some non-gill nets would be allowed, but maximum size would now be limited to 500 square feet; and 2) unemployment compensation would be available to affected netters through a 20 million dollar fund set aside to purchase the nets that would be made obsolete. This net 'buyback' subsequently became one of the most shameful scams in Florida's history. The commercial netters quickly discovered a loophole that paid them up to ten times more for seine nets than gill nets. A slight and inexpensive modification was needed to convert the gill nets into seine nets that met the provisions of this law. For example, one netter turned in fifty-six of these modified seine nets for over $190,000 thousand dollars.
Several other netters passed the $100,000 thousand dollar mark, and quite a few made at least $50,000 thousand dollars for similar efforts. In all, the state of Florida paid almost eight million dollars for bogus nets alone (Stearns, Par.6-8). To further this exploit, an error in the program intended to recycle the nets for raw materials, caused most of the nets to be auctioned off instead of recycled. The nets were subsequently then bought back by the same netters who sold them, for pennies on the dollar. Soon there after, the same nets were reported to be back in use for illegal fishing.
Although the new laws had been placed into affect, many netters were determined to skirt the law. Netters had now begun to poach, or illegally catch, mullet, trout, redfish, and snook with camouflaged gill nets. Another way the netters stretched the legal system was by modifying their nets. The fishermen were lacing their old nets together with plastic tarps. These new 'tarp nets' reached up to a mile in total length and could catch up to 1,800 pounds of fish in one set. The tarp nets are constructed by taking a garden-variety plastic or canvas tarp and lacing them together with the legal 500 square feet of net. Florida Marine Patrol officers could not do anything because the amendment did not specifically outlaw the augmentation of the legal 500 total square feet of net with another material.
The Ruffield Fisheries in North Florida constructed a test tarp net nearly a half a mile long and caught an estimated 18,000 pounds of ladyfish in one set (par. 11-14). In October of 1996, the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission released a 90-day emergency rule. The new rule treated tarp nets as 'regular' nets and restricted their total size to 500 square feet. Florida's then Governor Chiles, and the state cabinet upheld this rule in November of the same year, which protected the years fall/winter mullet spawn.
The issue was then dealt with in the spring of 1997 at the Legislatures spring session. The law is still in affect today (Par. 15). The poachers had many other tricks to get around the law. The poachers were using spotters who would use cellular phones to warn of approaching Marine Patrol boats.
Also, they would use scanners to monitor the Marine Patrol frequencies, so as to keep track of the whereabouts of the officers at all times. After the illegal catch had been made and the illegal nets hidden, the netters would return to shore with hundreds of pounds of roe mullet and only a still legal cast net aboard their boat. On the rare occasion when the poachers were caught, the fines where disheartening. In 1995, the majority of the arrests resulted in minimal fines and punishment. Typically, the arrests ended with no-contest pleas, and minimal court-cost payments ($25-$125).
Fortunately, in 1997, the Florida Legislature passed a new series of laws making poaching a 'major violation', with stiffer penalties. These new penalties included; heavier fines, gear confiscation, and loss of commercial fishing licenses. On the other side of the argument sits the commercial fishermen (Par.9-10). The commercial fishermen belong to the collective Organized Fishermen of Florida (OFF). It is the belief of the OFF that the FCA is purposely blurring the facts of the case in their favor. The OFF points out that there is no concrete proof that inshore commercial fishing is solely responsible for the depleting fish stocks.
The OFF believe it is mostly the reduction of habit and reduced water quality. Also, they state that development of coastal areas plays a significant part in the reduction of fish spawning grounds. Also, natural water flow is blocked, grass beds are reduced or eliminated through dredging and construction. The Organized Fishermen of Florida believe management is the answer to the marine problems, not the net bans. The OFF supplied figures from the Department of Natural Resources, indicating there are 500,000 licensed recreational saltwater fishermen in the state of Florida. This is a far cry from the five million claimed by the FCA.
The Organized Fishermen of Florida maintains hook and lining is not a viable alternative to netting great volumes of low cost fish. The sum of this in long run means 5,000 or more people will be out of work (DeYoung, Par. 78-87). Not only will the commercial fishers be out of work but the economy of many towns will go down too. Many people depend on the commercial fishers.
The dockworkers at the marinas, as well as the fish markets and fish processors, will also be out of work. The OFF believes that the net ban violates their rights as citizens of the United States of America. Although both parties present strong arguments for their stand on the net ban laws, the issue is still not at rest. Both parties are still appealing and counter-appealing the Florida Legislature for changes to be made. Even though the passing of the net ban has affected many people in different ways, the ban has accomplished its goal.
The Florida game and wildlife have made a strong comeback. Floridians around the state have reported a profound recovery of fish populations, benefiting many animals ranging from porpoises and sea turtles to eagles and pelicans (Julavits, Par. 9). Also, many people believe that this is just the start too. Since the beginning of the net ban the sea trout has seen one of the greatest comebacks.
The first year the ban went into effect, it took the state of Florida's commercial fishers from November 1, all the way around till the next October to fill their quota. The second year it took from November to July. Last year, the fishermen in the northwest filled the quota by February 15 (DeYoung, Par.87). The trend of shorter quota filling means there are more fish out there then in years before the ban. Along with the increased numbers of native species, are the migratory fish. The stocks of species such as Spanish mackerel are on the rise too. Before the net ban took effect in 1995, the catch of mackerel in Florida was 5.2 million pounds. After the ban, the number of fish taken has ranged from 2.0 million to 3.2 million (Waugh, Gregory, Par.
9). Spanish Mackerel have become so abundant that the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which regulates the fish, authorized Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina to increase the daily bag limit for recreational anglers. Both Carolinas on August 2, 2000 increased the limit form 10 to 15 fish. The minimum size, 12-inches, remains the same. This is due to the fact that Spanish Mackerel spawn when they are a year old; a 12-inch fish is 18 months old (Par.
4-5). As can be seen, the sea lives as well as the wildlife around the water has made a strong comeback. Some new techniques in conservation have played a small role in this, but the biggest contributor has been the ban on the use of gill nets. Through this ban the species of fish have had a greater chance of surviving to an older age, thus giving them a chance to reproduce and rebuild their numbers. The ban accompanied with other size and number laws have given Florida the room to start rebuilding its natural fisheries.
The ban has also greatly lowered the amount of damage being done to Florida's reefs and grass beds. This also will help improve Florida's marine environment. Although the net ban has been effect for many years now and the benefits from it are clear to see, the legal battle is still not over (Voyles, Par. 10).
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