TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida voters will decide whether the right to hunt and fish should be enshrined in the state constitution.
Amendment 2, titled “Right to Fish and Hunt,” states that it aims to “preserve forever fishing and hunting, including by the use of traditional methods, as a public right and preferred means of responsibly managing and controlling fish and wildlife.”
Although Florida state statute already recognizes the right to fish and hunt, Republicans in the legislature said they introduced the measure to recognize the state’s fishing traditions and industry.
“(The amendment) is about the heritage of Florida,” the measure’s sponsor, Rep. Lauren Melo, told Florida Politics when it passed. “Passing this legislation is a powerful statement that we support and champion our fishing and hunting traditions, and we want to protect (them) for our future.”
Many residents of Pine Island in southwest Florida rely on fishing for their livelihoods. Most appear to support the measure, but others have concerns, according to a report from NBC affiliate WBBH.
“I think it’s part of our heritage,” Pine Island resident Don Schafstall told WBBH. “You know, a lot of people use it for food. I think it’s very important they have the right to do that.
Some supporters of the measure fear “anti-fishing and hunting groups” will impose regulations, while others worry that the amendment would undo existing protections for Florida wildlife.
“I support hunting and fishing, but not to the extent if something is extinct,” Pine Island resident Stacey Halverson told WBBH.
Environmental activist Chuck O’Neal took issue with language in the measure allowing “traditional methods” to be used in hunting. He worries it could lead to more brutal killings, causing unnecessary suffering to animals.
“Is a traditional method a club or a sphere?” O’Neal told WBBH. “Yes, they are traditional.”
O’Neal also believes the law could allow hunters and fishermen to intrude on private property.
“They removed an exclusion that said you could fish and hunt, but you had to research private property rights and trespassing laws,” O’Neal told WBBH.
Melo insisted the amendment won’t supersede current law. She said “misinformation” is circulating about the bill.
“FWC will still have all of the authority that they’ve always had to protect our current laws,” Melo told WBBH. “Nothing changes.”
Florida could join 23 other states with constitutional previsions securing the right to hunt and fish. Ballot measures require 60% approval from Florida voters in order to pass.