(1) No commercial harvester shall transport on the water, fish with or cause to be fished with, set, or place any trap designed for taking blue crabs unless such commercial harvester holds a valid saltwater products license and restricted species endorsement issued under s. 379.361 and a blue crab endorsement issued under this section. Each trap shall have the harvester’s blue crab endorsement number permanently affixed to it. Each buoy attached to such a trap shall also have the harvester’s blue crab endorsement number permanently attached to the buoy. The blue crab endorsement number shall be affixed in legible figures at least 2 inches high on each buoy used. The saltwater products license must be on board the boat, and both the license and the crabs shall be subject to inspection at all times. This subsection shall not apply to an individual fishing with no more than five traps.
(2) No person shall harvest blue crabs with more than five traps, harvest blue crabs in commercial quantities, or sell blue crabs unless such person holds a valid saltwater products license with a restricted species endorsement issued under s. 379.361 and a blue crab endorsement issued under this section.
(a) In the event of the death or disability of a person holding an active blue crab endorsement, the endorsement may be transferred by the person to a member of his or her immediate family or may be renewed by any person so designated by the executor of the person’s estate.
(b) A commercial harvester who holds a saltwater products license and a blue crab endorsement that is issued to the commercial harvester’s vessel registration number and who replaces an existing vessel with a new vessel may transfer the existing blue crab endorsement to the saltwater products license of the new vessel.
(3)(a) Endorsement fees.—
1. The fee for a hard-shell blue crab endorsement for the taking of hard-shell blue crabs, as authorized by rule of the commission, is $125, $25 of which must be used solely for the trap retrieval program authorized under s. 379.2424 and in commission rules.
2. The fee for a soft-shell blue crab endorsement for the taking of soft-shell blue crabs, as authorized by rule of the commission, is $250, $25 of which must be used solely for the trap retrieval program authorized under s. 379.2424 and in commission rules.
3. The fee for a nontransferable hard-shell blue crab endorsement for the taking of hard-shell blue crabs, as authorized by rule of the commission, is $125, $25 of which must be used solely for the trap retrieval program authorized under s. 379.2424 and in commission rules.
4. The fee for an incidental take blue crab endorsement for the taking of blue crabs as bycatch in shrimp trawls and stone crab traps is $25, as authorized in commission rules.
(b) Trap tag fees.—The annual fee for each trap tag issued by the commission under the requirements of the blue crab effort management program established by rule of the commission is 50 cents per tag. The fee for replacement tags for lost or damaged tags is 50 cents per tag plus the cost of shipping. In the event of a major natural disaster, such as a hurricane or major storm, that causes massive trap losses within an area declared by the Governor to be a disaster emergency area, the commission may temporarily defer or waive replacement tag fees.
(c) Equitable rent.—The commission may establish by rule an amount of equitable rent that may be recovered as partial compensation to the state for the enhanced access to its natural resources. In determining whether to establish such a rent and the amount thereof, the commission may consider the amount of revenues annually generated by endorsement fees, trap tag fees, replacement trap tag fees, trap retrieval fees, and the continued economic viability of the commercial blue crab industry. A rule establishing an amount of equitable rent shall become effective only upon approval by act of the Legislature.
(d) Disposition of moneys generated from fees and administrative penalties.—Moneys generated from the sale of blue crab endorsements, trap tags, and replacement trap tags or from the assessment of administrative penalties by the commission under this section shall be deposited into the Marine Resources Conservation Trust Fund. Up to 50 percent of the moneys generated from the sale of endorsements and trap tags and the assessment of administrative penalties may be used for the operation and administration of the blue crab effort management program. The remaining moneys generated from the sale of endorsements and trap tags and the assessment of administrative penalties may be used for trap retrieval; management of the blue crab fishery; and public education activities, research, and enforcement activities in support of the blue crab effort management program.
(e) Waiver of fees.—For the 2007-2008 license year, the commission shall waive all fees under this subsection for all persons who qualify by September 30, 2007, to participate in the blue crab effort management program established by commission rule.
(4)(a) Untagged trap penalties.—By July 1, 2008, the commission shall adopt by rule the administrative penalties authorized by this subsection. In addition to any other penalties provided in s. 379.407 for any blue crab endorsement holder who violates commission rules requiring the placement of trap tags for traps used for the directed harvest of blue crabs, the following administrative penalties apply:
1. For a first violation, the commission shall assess an administrative penalty of up to $1,000.
2. For a second violation that occurs within 24 months after any previous such violation, the commission shall assess an administrative penalty of up to $2,000, and the blue crab endorsement holder’s blue crab fishing privileges may be suspended for 12 calendar months.
3. For a third violation that occurs within 36 months after any two previous such violations, the commission shall assess an administrative penalty of up to $5,000, and the blue crab endorsement holder’s blue crab fishing privileges may be suspended for 24 calendar months.
4. A fourth violation that occurs within 48 months after any three previous such violations shall result in permanent revocation of all of the violator’s saltwater fishing privileges, including having the commission proceed against the endorsement holder’s saltwater products license in accordance with s. 379.407.
Any blue crab endorsement holder assessed an administrative penalty under this paragraph shall, within 30 calendar days after notification, pay the administrative penalty to the commission or request an administrative hearing under ss. 120.569 and 120.57.
(b) Trap theft; prohibitions and penalties.—It is unlawful for any person to remove or take possession of the contents of another harvester’s blue crab trap without the express written consent of the trap owner, which must be available for immediate inspection. Unauthorized possession of another harvester’s blue crab trap gear or removal of trap contents constitutes theft.
1. Any commercial harvester receiving a judicial disposition other than dismissal or acquittal on a charge of theft of or from a trap as prohibited by this paragraph shall, in addition to the penalties specified in s. 379.407 and this section, permanently lose all saltwater fishing privileges, including any saltwater products licenses, blue crab endorsements, and blue crab trap tags allotted to him or her by the commission. In such cases, endorsements are nontransferable.
2. In addition, any commercial harvester receiving a judicial disposition other than dismissal or acquittal for violating this paragraph shall also be assessed an administrative penalty of up to $5,000. Immediately upon receipt of a citation for a violation involving theft of or from a trap and until adjudicated for such a violation, or upon receipt of a judicial disposition other than dismissal or acquittal for such a violation, the commercial harvester committing the violation is prohibited from transferring any blue crab endorsements.
3. A commercial harvester who violates this paragraph shall be punished under s. 379.407. Any other person who violates this paragraph commits a Level Two violation under s. 379.401.
(c) Criminal activities prohibited.—
1. It is unlawful for any commercial harvester or any other person to:
a. Willfully molest any blue crab trap, line, or buoy that is the property of any licenseholder without the permission of that licenseholder.
b. Barter, trade, lease, or sell a blue crab trap tag or conspire or aid in such barter, trade, lease, or sale unless duly authorized by commission rules.
c. Supply, agree to supply, aid in supplying, or give away a blue crab trap tag unless duly authorized by commission rules.
d. Make, alter, forge, counterfeit, or reproduce a blue crab trap tag.
e. Possess an altered, forged, counterfeit, or imitation blue crab trap tag.
f. Possess a number of original trap tags or replacement trap tags, the sum of which exceeds by 1 percent the number of traps allowed by commission rules.
g. Engage in the commercial harvest of blue crabs while the blue crab endorsements of the licenseholder are under suspension or revocation.
2. Immediately upon receiving a citation involving a violation of this paragraph and until adjudicated for such a violation, a commercial harvester is prohibited from transferring any blue crab endorsement.
3. A commercial harvester convicted of violating this paragraph commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, shall also be assessed an administrative penalty of up to $5,000, and is immediately prohibited from transferring any blue crab endorsement. All blue crab endorsements issued to a commercial harvester convicted of violating this paragraph may be suspended for up to 24 calendar months.
4. Any other person convicted of violating this paragraph commits a Level Four violation under s. 379.401.
(d) Endorsement transfers; fraudulent reports; penalties.—For a commercial harvester convicted of fraudulently reporting the actual value of transferred blue crab endorsements, the commission may automatically suspend or permanently revoke the seller’s or the purchaser’s blue crab endorsements. If the endorsement is permanently revoked, the commission shall also permanently deactivate the endorsement holder’s blue crab trap tag accounts.
(e) Prohibitions during endorsement suspension and revocation.—During any period of suspension or after revocation of a blue crab endorsement holder’s endorsements, he or she shall, within 15 days after notice provided by the commission, remove from the water all traps subject to that endorsement. Failure to do so shall extend the period of suspension for an additional 6 calendar months.
(5) For purposes of this section, a conviction is any disposition other than acquittal or dismissal.
(6) A blue crab endorsement may not be renewed until all fees and administrative penalties imposed under this section are paid.
History.—s. 1, ch. 73-26; s. 1, ch. 76-105; s. 2, ch. 77-142; ss. 1, 2, ch. 78-143; s. 2, ch. 80-299; s. 6, ch. 83-134; s. 2, ch. 84-121; ss. 16, 17, ch. 85-234; s. 5, ch. 86-219; ss. 10, 19, ch. 86-240; s. 558, ch. 95-148; s. 11, ch. 95-414; s. 10, ch. 98-203; s. 19, ch. 98-227; s. 245, ch. 99-245; s. 6, ch. 2000-212; s. 39, ch. 2000-364; s. 11, ch. 2003-143; s. 11, ch. 2006-304; s. 9, ch. 2007-223; s. 152, ch. 2008-247; s. 63, ch. 2009-86.
1Note.—Section 6, ch. 83-134, as amended by s. 2, ch. 84-121; by s. 5, ch. 86-219; and by s. 19, ch. 86-240, repealed the then-existing section effective July 1, 1984, and further provided that if the Governor and Cabinet had not adopted appropriate rules by July 1, 1984, this section would remain in force until such rules were effective. Section 9, ch. 83-134, provided that, prior to the adoption of rules amending, readopting, or repealing those provisions set forth in s. 6, the Marine Fisheries Commission would hold a public hearing thereon, and no such amendment, readoption, or repeal would be acted upon until it had been determined, based upon appropriate findings of fact, that such action would not adversely affect the resource. The Marine Fisheries Commission was transferred to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission by s. 3, ch. 99-245.