DESTIN, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at the Destin Harbor Boardwalk Thursday joined by the Executive Director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Eric Sutton. At the event, DeSantis announced an extended 57-day long Gulf Red Snapper season, the longest season since the state began management of it.
Signage at the event read, “Florida: Fishing Capital of the World.” The governor began his remarks focusing on the economy and the state’s budget. DeSantis said the state was proud of its pro-business stance, then addressed his reason being in Destin, the state’s fishing industry.
“We are the fishing capital of this country, really the fishing capital of the world. We have people who come form all over the country and all over the world to come and fish in Florida,” DeSantis said. “FWC estimates that 13.8 billion dollars to the state’s economy and 120,000 jobs are all tied to this industry. We know anglers across Florida love what they do, they love to do it, it’s a great thing for families and I know it’s been a tradition for many many people.”
DeSantis announced that for 2022’s Gulf Red Snapper season, the season will include summer and fall seasons and last 57 days. He said it was the longest combined season since state management began. He said the summer season will open June 17 and run consecutively through July 31 to include Father’s Day and July 4 weekend.
“Anglers will also have the opportunity to continue the season later in the year, with a fall Gulf Red Snapper season. In the fall, there will be 12 additional days, the longest fall season since state management began. For anglers to catch red snappers in the Gulf, including Veterans’ Day weekend and Thanksgiving Day weekend. These additional days of fishing mean families can take advantage of the weekend, and have a great time off of Florida’s coast in places like Destin. We know they love the red snapper here in Destin. And why not? It’s a great thing, this has been going on since the 1800s. We appreciate what it means to the culture of our state, what it means to the economy of our state, and we’re really fortunate to make this announcement here today. This is going to be a big deal for a lot of people. I really look forward to all of the anglers being able to enjoy this expanded red snapper opportunity.”
DeSantis introduced various officials from FWC to speak about the announcement.
“On behalf of the commission, I’m really happy about the governor’s announcement this morning,” Rodney Baretto, Chairman of FWC said. “We’re giving more opportunity to go red snapper fishing in the gulf than ever in the history of Florida. but I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight some of the governor’s efforts with the environment. The clean water, the Everglades, our beloved Everglades, the environment itself. This is our first governor, a Republican governor, who has put all his efforts into the environment and making it better for all Floridians.”
He congratulated DeSantis for those efforts, and said DeSantis has said to make Florida a leader, not a follower. Baretto said Florida is an example for wildlife management to other states.
Commissioner Sutton spoke next. He thanked the governor and Baretto for helping “maintain our quality of life” in Florida.
“I want to mention, and I’ve said it before, but it was three days on the job that the governor was taking an interest in what we were doing, particularly the health and the fish and our and wildlife, and it’s been continued support,” Sutton said. “I also want to thank two other groups. One is the tremendous team that we have at FWC who work tirelessly to bring the most access to the resource that we can but they couldn’t do their job without the folks here, all the stakeholders and all of the fishermen. It’s such a great honor to be in this position, to serve the public, to serve these folks, it’s just been tremendous to get to know all of the people around the state that just enjoy fishing and hunting and access to the environment.”
He thanked the governor again. When DeSantis came back to the podium, he introduced locals to speak about the announcement and fishing in Florida. Justin Lee came up first and said recreational fishing is one of the largest economic drivers in the state.
“Up here in the Panhandle, the red snapper is one of our most important fisheries. This is a really big step in the right direction for us,” Lee said. “I want to thank you governor for not only helping manage these fisheries, but also with your clean water initiatives. What you’re doing right now is going to help us have access to these fisheries but also so our kids have access as well.”
Jennifer Adams spoke next, saying the community was thankful Destin had been chosen for DeSantis to make the season announcement and highlighted the artificial reefs created in the area. She said her coastal research team would be investing nearly $3 million in growing the artificial reef network, and that they’d already created over 300 artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico to-date, and several deep-water buoys, the only ones of their kind in the continental U.S.
Adams focused on the economic impact of the fishing industry on the local economy and state business.
“This provides us the opportunity to introduce new products and new innovations, like the artificial reef program and little adventures,” Adams said, detailing how the programs have allowed for charter fishing programs to take families out on the water, and teaching children how to fish. She reminded the crowd that restaurants will cook fisher catches straight from the water if they bring them in, and thanked the governor again for his support.
DeSantis spoke again after Adams and reiterated his excitement to lead on the issues of environment and fishing in the area. Then he took questions from the crowd. The first was about the extended season, and why it had been made.
“The big push for me,” to extend the fishing season, DeSantis said. “I know how it’s important to everybody, so I asked FWC, let’s see what we can do, using” the most recent data.
Baretto explained that after viewing the data, FWC realized that “if we added weekends so that if we broke it up so it wasn’t just a concentrated fishing season,” it would give more opportunities to people to go fishing, especially if they had more traditional work schedules. The change will allow more people to fish on weekends, according to Baretto.
DeSantis said having holiday weekends available in the seasons was important to the state in making the decision.