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July 7, 2014

Today, Florida's First District Court of Appeal issued an opinion upholding the net ban amendment…again. CCA Florida once again led the charge to support the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) regulations implementing the Constitutional Amendment that was passed by 72% of the voters in 1994.

The same small group of commercial gill netters that have filed one lawsuit after another were rebuffed in the appellate court after finding a sympathetic judge at the circuit court level. The three judge appellate panel held that the trial judge, "…erred in determining [the netters] claims were not barred by [past legal precedent]". They also held that the judge was wrong to allow the gill net season to open while the case was pending in the appellate courts. "This is a big win for all recreational anglers and CCA Florida will continue to be the outspoken advocate and protector of the Constitutional Amendment which has protected Florida's marine fisheries and the multibillion dollar economic value of fisheries to Florida's economy," said CCA Florida Chairman, Fred Crabill.

Last October, Florida waters were again open to the slaughter of illegal gill nets for six days, reminiscent of pre 1994 Florida where use of these nets devastated our near shore and inshore waters crushing recreational fishing for Redfish, Trout, Snook and other fishes. The net ban has had dramatic effect on bringing bait back to our near shore waters, with the resulting increase in catches of pelagics like sailfish and cobia along the coast.

But, the fight may not be over. It will be up to the netters whether or not to file an appeal at the next level, the Florida Supreme Court. While legal scholars doubt the success of such an appeal given the reasoning by the First District Court of Appeals, stranger things have happened in the courts where gill nets are concerned. After all, no one dreamed that the same gill net interests that have pushed this fight for twenty (20) years would find a willing judge last year.

"CCA Florida would like to thank FWC, Attorney General Pam Bondi and especially Assistant Attorney General, Jonathan Glogau for their tireless efforts on this case and for protecting Florida's saltwater fisheries," said CCA Florida Executive Director, Brian Gorski.

CCA Florida will continue to monitor the case and file legal briefs if the matter is appealed. Lawyers representing CCA in the current appeal were pleased with the results but wary of what may come next… perhaps a trip to the Supreme Court.

For the full First District Court of Appeals opinion click here…