Florida remains one of the country’s top destinations for world-class fishing, hunting, and recreation thanks to Governor Ron DeSantis’ focus on preserving and protecting our natural resources.
According to the FWC, his continued leadership in 2021 will ensure that residents and visitors will benefit and enjoy our environmental resources for generations to come.
This past year, Governor DeSantis tasked the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and partners to continue their battle against nonnative invasive species, such as the Burmese python. The 2021 Florida Python Challenge yielded unprecedented results this year with participants removing 223 invasive Burmese pythons from South Florida. Over 600 people participated in the 10-day competition, which was designed to increase awareness about the invasive species and the threats they pose.
Governor DeSantis also charged the FWC with continuing its efforts in the research and mitigation of red tide. Since taking office, Governor DeSantis has dedicated $12.6 million to the Center for Red Tide Research. In 2019, Governor DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1552 into law, which created the Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative.
This year, as part of this initiative, the cutting-edge experimental facility at Mote Aquaculture Research Park in Sarasota officially opened and will allow scientists to test compounds and technologies prior to pilot field implementation. The partnership between FWC and the Mote Marine Laboratory will enable the development of technologies and approaches to control and mitigate red tide and its impacts.
FWC continues to dedicate resources to manatee care and rehabilitation. FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute marine mammal response teams with the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership rescued a new annual record of at least 145 manatees. In the current Fiscal Year 2021-2022 budget, $1,254,000 in recurring funding was appropriated for reimbursement for acute care facilities for manatee care. Further, an additional $8 million was appropriated to restore manatee access to springs and provide habitat restoration in manatee concentrated areas.
FWC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are coordinating to address the manatee UME along Florida’s Atlantic coast. In late November, they officially set up a Joint Incident Management Team under the emergency response Incident Command System. The Incident Command System is a standardized approach to the command, control and coordination of emergency response that provides a common hierarchy that enhances the effectiveness of those responding.
“Thanks to the leadership of Governor DeSantis, Florida continues to offer fishing, boating and outdoor recreational opportunities to visitors and residents that are second to none,” said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto. “Conserving our natural resources is key to this success, and we appreciate the Governor for supporting our mission as the Fishing and Boating Capital of the World.”
“We thank Governor DeSantis for his unwavering support of our priorities this year,” said FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton. “Our conservation legacy will thrive for generations to come.”
Below are some additional highlights from 2021:
- Offered a record 55-day Gulf red snapper season from June 4 through July 28 as a result of the data collected under the State Reef Fish Survey. The Gulf red snapper season provides opportunities for anglers while boosting local economies throughout the Gulf Coast.
- FWC law enforcement deployed assets to Texas to aide in securing the nation’s southern border.
- FWC law enforcement provided several high-profile security details including Super Bowl LV and the Surfside condominium disaster.
- FWC law enforcement assisted staff with manatee mortality and red tide response efforts.
- FWC’s Boating and Waterways section saw a nearly 50% increase this year in derelict vessel removals due to increased funding and participation from local governments in the Derelict Vessel Removal Grant Program.
- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Forensics Laboratory marked the 1-year anniversary of its collaboration with the University of Florida Maples Center for Forensic Medicine. The Division of Law Enforcement expanded its forensic science component with the goal of becoming nationally recognized as a premier wildlife forensic sciences program.
- In response to red tide blooms along Florida’s Gulf coast, more than 12,000 red tide samples analyzed and communicated to the public via a near real-time web-based map.
- Approved protections for Florida deer to reduce the risk of chronic wasting disease spreading into the state. The FWC also launched a campaign to make hunters aware of how they can support these efforts. CWD, which has not been detected in Florida, is a contagious disease that is always fatal for affected members of the deer family.
- Implemented new protections for multi-species fish spawning aggregations near an area 10 miles southwest of Key West known as Western Dry Rocks. These science-based protections were endorsed by several major fishing and conservation groups, and, in combination with traditional management approaches, represent a comprehensive strategy aimed at sustaining and enhancing fish populations.
- Celebrated the Catch a Florida Memory program’s 5-year anniversary by achieving more than 20,000 approved angler catches.
These accomplishments will continue to support Florida’s economy while providing residents and visitors numerous opportunities to enjoy all of Florida’s great outdoors.
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