Photo: Captain Diego Rouylle
The following remarks were delivered by Captain Diego Rouylle at the February 19 FWC Commission meeting. Capt. Rouylle spoke on the agenda item: Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary’s Restoration Blueprint.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am glad to be here today.
The number of permit on our flats has decreased by over 70 percent of what we had in the middle 1990s and before. During the last 10 years, this deterioration has continued even though there have been great efforts by our community and the FWC to implement improved management regulations. It has not been enough.
My name is Diego Rouylle and I am a Florida Keys full time flats fishing guide of 27 years, averaging 200 guiding days a year. Guiding permit has been at the forefront of my efforts since 1993. I have been, for the most part, strictly targeting this species on the flats of the Lower Keys and Key West. The continual degradation of our permit flats fishery throughout the last two decades is threatening our way of life.
Every day we are presented with fresh evidence of this. One of the main indicators of a fish species decline is the loss of the largest fish. I have watched the size of our permit decline throughout the last two decades. It has become rare, if not close to impossible to run into these larger fish. This pattern has been continual and persistent. I have maintained statistics of my customers’ annual permit catch, which reflect about 200 workdays. In the 2000s, we averaged between 50 and 60 permit a year, with a best year of 91. During the last decade, we haven’t even gone over 40 once, and averaged in the low 30s. These numbers do not reflect the extra amount of effort put forth to achieve these lower estimates. It has become impossible to maintain productivity levels of the past.
Considering the decline we have experienced during the last two decades, the future for us fishing guides that have based our incomes acquiring the skills to engage in this very difficult career is in dire need of some help. The shifting baseline is clearly reaching its final shifts unless we can do more to not only stop this negative trend, but reverse it by providing sanctuary focused on spawning sites, and also flats and channels. Permit are a tough resilient species. If we can give them a chance, they will rebound, just like many other species have, once the correct management is implemented. It is my wholehearted belief after spending over a quarter century passionately learning about this one species that STRATEGIC CLOSURES will need to become a significant tool for a productive future in the fishery management of our Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. I am respectfully asking our Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to strongly consider implementing the closure of 1.3 square miles during the permit spawning season at Western Dry Rocks.
Thank you for your consideration.