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TRACKING THE CATCH COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN MUST ADHERE TO MANY RULES BY GABRIEL SANCHEZ

The “freedom” to fish all day and make a living at it is rather a complicated business. It takes more than angling skill set to pluck the bounty of the sea and sell it. Modern day commercial fishermen must complete piles of paperwork and memorize the byzantine rules and regulations and quickly changing seasons. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to be handy with electronic technology either. Commercial fisheries landings and fishing effort data have been collected by the state of Florida since 1984. Sales of seafood caught in Florida must be reported on a Marine Fisheries Trip Ticket. Trip tickets include information about the harvester, the dealer purchasing the product, the date of the transaction, the county in which the species was landed, time fished, and pounds of each species landed for each trip. Whew! The first hurdle for commercial fishermen is obtaining a Saltwater Products License. With the license, commercial fishermen, with a boat registered as a commercial vessel, are allowed to sell fish to wholesale dealers. In addition to licensing, commercial fishermen must comply with a host of other regulations — how much they can catch, what they can catch, how they can catch it, when they can catch it. Some types of fish require a special endorsement, or another license. Once a fisherman has obtained the proper licensing, the biggest concern becomes proper reporting. Reporting is a crucial part of the oversight and accountability process for government officials, scientists, seafood markets and last, but not least, the fishermen themselves. For example, fishermen keep copies of tickets to compare with their annual landing summary reports the Florida Wildlife

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Research Institute produces. The commission also mandates vessel monitoring systems for some vessels. Those include vessels with commercial permits for Gulf reef fish and charter boats and head boats that have a commercial reef fish permit. The consequences of fishing in the wrong place can result in a significant fine. “We don’t have vessel monitoring in our industry,” said Irwin, who fishes spiny lobster and stone crab. “They have that in the shrimping industry. We actually call the area where that boundary is the “shrimp line.’” Responsibilities for merchants are clerical with a capital C. First of all, a wholesale dealer’s license is required to buy fish from a producer, and sell them to retail or other wholesale dealers. The license is also needed to buy fish from wholesale dealers and to sell to consumers. “As a wholesale dealer, we have to report the fishermen’s catch when we report what we purchase from them. It should match what they have in their logbook,” said Tim Hill of Key Largo Fisheries. “It’s all the same across the board when we report to the state and federal government every week.”

When we get to the dock we fill out a trip ticket, it’s done every time you sell product. For example, a trip ticket form might include how many traps were used, how much time you had on the traps, hours out at sea, and how many people were onboard, amongst other things.” — Capt. Ryan Irwin

Marathon Seafood Festival 18  
Marathon Seafood Festival 18  
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