Appeals court overturns gill net ruling

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida wildlife officers are resuming their enforcement on fisherman using gill nets to pull in their big catch after an appeals court overturned a recent ruling.

Just last month, a judge ruled it was legal to use them, prompting fisherman to flock to Florida.

"We're just trying to feed our families, really," fisherman Robbie Bell said. "Yes, we are catching some fish, but it's not anything that it's made out to be."

Fisherman were coming to the Sunshine State from all around the region, but an appeals court has changed the tide, ruling that the gill net fishing ban should be back in place. Wildlife officials admit it may all be confusing.

Amanda Nalley, of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Tallahassee, said, "Officers are being told to use discretion when to enforce the law." She said "some fisherman may still be gill netting, not knowing the rules have changed," and that this is a fluid situation that may change again in the next few days.

"Whatever swims into -- they set their nets in front of these schools -- and whatever swims into it and it gets tangled in the nets, they keep what they keep, and what they can't is thrown out in the water," local fisherman Chris Chioffi said.

He said he's glad to see that the ban on gill netting is being enforced again. He said the method of harvest is irresponsible and destructive because the fish anglers can't keep are just thrown away.

Wildlife officers say they expect further action from the First District Court of Appeals, leading recreational fisherman to believe the fight isn't over.

"In 1994 we didn't stop anyone from fishing, we just stopped gill nets," Bell said. "Eighteen years later, look what we have. It's amazing. It's flourishing. Of course they want it, but they are not going to get it."

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