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Protecting Spawning Permit in the Special Permit Zone

Beginning in 2011, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission enacted new regulations for permit, creating a Special Permit Zone, or SPZ, in the Florida Keys. One of the new regulations in the SPZ was to close harvest during permit spawning season, which was identified as May through July.

Recent data from BTT’s ongoing Permit Acoustic Tracking Project shows what many guides and anglers have observed in recent years – that Permit are arriving at spawning sites on wrecks and reefs earlier, in April, and some as early as March. This indicates that the spawning season has expanded to cover April through July. The recent data analysis also shows permit traveling between the flats, reefs, and wrecks, thus confirming that some of the Permit on wrecks and reefs are flats fish.

The graph below shows the percentage of detections of tagged permit at reef spawning sites by month (black bars). The greater the percentage of detections means that there are more Permit on offshore habitats for longer periods of time. Permit are abundant at these sites from April through July. The green shading shows the months that are currently closed to harvest. 



Based on these new data and the observations of guides and anglers, we have requested that the FWC Commission expands the spawning season harvest closure to protect Permit during April. The new spawning season closure would be April through July.

This item is tentatively scheduled for the December 2017 FWC Commission meeting in Gainesville.  Members of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association are in favor of this management recommendation. Captain Pete Frezza, a member of the FKFGA governing board, stated that “This project is an excellent example of how information that is gained only though scientific research can be utilized toward the protection of a cherished and important game fish species here in the Keys.   It shows why finding answers through Science is so important.” The Lower Keys Guides Association also supports the proposed closed harvest season.  “The permit we fish for on the flats are out on the wrecks and reefs, spawning and being harvested in April. Extending the closed harvest season to April provides needed protection for those spawning fish that drive our industry” said Captain Doug Kilpatrick, Commodore of the lower keys Guides association. 

We would like your input on this proposed regulation change. 

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The full FWC regulations for Permit are here: https://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/permit/

(PC: Dr. Aaron Adams)

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