This is an update to a news post from earlier this month.
With the help of Diving Equipment & Marketing Association (DEMA), Governor Rick Scott has approved the proposed changes to place fair licensure language in Florida House Bill 7025.
The amended language in House Bill 7025 just signed by the Governor clearly outlines two lobster tag and fishing licensing options for individual divers and dive charter vessel operators. The first option allows dive charter vessel operators to purchase a vessel license covering all divers on the vessel. With a vessel license individual divers that take or attempt to take fish or lobster do not need to obtain a separate fishing license or lobster tag. The second option calls for divers to obtain their own fishing license and lobster tag, in which case the dive charter vessel operator would not be required to have a vessel-based license when advertising for or knowingly permitting divers to take fish or lobster while diving from the vessel. This is the culmination of months of close collaboration between DEMA and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
“We are extremely pleased with the outcome of our efforts,” commented Tom Ingram, Executive Director of DEMA. “The previous legislation was unclear as to who would be required to possess the fishing and lobster license and therefore unfair to both dive charter vessel operators and divers. DEMA worked closely with the FWC to propose the approved changes that clearly outline responsibility and provide licensure options. Ultimately, we have ensured the protection of both divers and dive businesses.”
DEMA’s involvement began in 2011 just weeks before the opening of mini-season when the FWC threatened enforcement of laws which would have required dive charter vessels to have fishing licenses when divers were aboard taking lobsters or spearing fish, or when the vessel operators advertised for divers to take fish or lobster. Jeff Torode of South Florida Diving Headquarters had filed suit and DEMA lent its resources to the effort.
Had the new law not been enacted the FWC interpretation of existing law could have required both charter vessel operators and individual divers to each purchase licenses and lobster tags, essentially doubling the fees to the state and placing a financial burden on divers and dive charter operators.
Thanks to watchful citizens, DEMA, and Governor Scott this burdensome issue has been resolved satisfactorily.