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Capt. Jimmy Gagliardini Voices Support for Protecting Spawning Fish at Western Dry Rocks to FWC Commissioners

The following remarks were delivered by Captain Jimmy Gagliardini at the February 19 FWC Commission meeting. Capt. Gagliardini spoke on the agenda item: Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary’s Restoration Blueprint. 

Good Morning. My name is Captain Jimmy Gagliardini and I am here to speak to you about the reality of the fisheries in the Florida Keys. I have fished these waters for over 30 years, and can tell you firsthand that the fisheries have declined. It is of utmost importance at this time to impose closures on spawning aggregations on the reefs of Key West and beyond.

Spawning time is a vulnerable time for species such as mutton snapper and permit, just to name a few. For a few months out of the year, thousands of mutton snappers gather at Western Dry Rocks to begin their spawning cycle. This great concentration of fish makes them easy targets for anglers. Taking mature fish at this critical time reduces the success rate of the spawn, thus reducing the numbers of future populations.

Permit, although a catch and release species, have a high rate of mortality as a result of being targeted by fisherman. During the fight, great numbers of these fish are eaten by sharks. Unfortunately, large females are most likely to become easy meals because they put up the greatest fight. However, these large, mature females play the most vital role in the propagation of the species as they are the most fertile individuals who produce the greatest number of eggs. Scientific research has proven this to be irrefutable.

The congregation of sharks on the reef during spawning season is a result of overfishing. A shark’s role on the reef is to weed out the wounded and weak, and fishing these areas puts all targeted species in a very vulnerable position. In my 30 plus years of fishing professionally, I have watched many mature fish fall prey to sharks unnecessarily, and the numbers have and will continue to grow each year.

In many areas, the sharks have gotten so bad during the spawning periods that I have stopped fishing those areas altogether until the spawning cycle has ended. It becomes a moral question as to whether or not to sacrifice so many of the targeted species to predators.

As an offshore captain, I represent the minority voice on the closure of spawning aggregations in the Florida Keys. There are many fisherman too focused on the short term gains without considering the long term effects of their actions.

I personally have the will to bear up under any negative impacts this stand may have on me or my business. What I don’t have is the fortitude to ignore my conscience. The closure of Western Dry Rocks is a big leap in the right direction. Fisheries conservation is a must.

The future lies in your hands

Thank you very much.

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