The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will be honoring Florida’s heroes on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, by implementing changes to commercial licensing requirements. The changes will make it easier for Florida veterans and veterans with disabilities to enter the commercial fishing industry.
“We have a tremendous opportunity not only to give thanks to the men and women that served our nation so courageously, but also to provide them with more support so they can pursue careers in fishing here in Florida,” said Governor Rick Scott. “This initiative will expand job opportunities for our veterans and get more folks involved in the commercial fishing industry, which is a win-win for Florida.”
The FWC adopted these changes at its September meeting and made a formal announcement of the changes in a media event on Nov. 9.
“I am excited to be extending this opportunity to the men and women who so bravely served our country,” said Commissioner Charles W. Roberts III. “Job creation and Florida’s economy are priorities for everyone, including the FWC. Our hope is that more of Florida’s veterans and veterans with disabilities, especially those who have recently returned from active duty, will be able to partake in the commercial seafood industry and benefit from this opportunity.”
The changes will modify income requirements for many of Florida veterans seeking a commercial restricted species endorsement, which allows commercial harvesters to fish for and sell species that are designated as restricted.
Spanish and king mackerel, flounder, shrimp, mahi mahi and several reef fish are among the list of species that require a restricted species endorsement.
Currently, commercial harvesters attempting to qualify for a restricted species endorsement must have a Florida Saltwater Products License, which is Florida’s commercial saltwater fishing license, and be able to attribute $5,000 or 25 percent of their total annual income during one of the past three years to sales of saltwater products.
With the new changes in place, restricted species endorsement income requirements will be waived for one license year (July 1 - June 30) for Florida veterans who were honorably discharged between Sept. 11, 2001, and June 30, 2014. After June 30, 2014, this income-requirement waiver will continue to extend to Florida veterans as long as they apply within four years of an honorable discharge.
The one-license-year waiver also extends to all honorably discharged veterans with service-connected disabilities, regardless of when they were discharged. After the one-year waiver expires, veterans with service-connected disabilities will also have a reduced income requirement of $2,500 instead of $5,000. All other veterans must meet the $5,000 income requirement after the one-year waiver expires. To qualify for these exemptions, veterans must be certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or the U.S. Armed Forces to have at least a 10-percent disability that is service-connected.
“I salute the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for making it easier for Florida’s veterans to become commercial fishermen,” said Mike Prendergast, executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “With more than 1.6 million veterans in Florida, including nearly 260,000 with service-connected disabilities, this new opportunity provides an avenue to help them achieve their dreams after honorable military service.”
Applicants should visit MyFWC.com/License and click on “Commercial Saltwater Products” or call 850-487-3122.
To learn more about commercial saltwater fishing in Florida, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing; click on “Saltwater Fishing” and “Commercial.”