The 1st District Court of Appeal on Monday upheld the state's long-disputed, voter-approved "net ban." The court reversed a ruling by Leon County Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford, who sided last year with the Wakulla Fishermen's Association, a bait-shop owner and two mullet fishermen.
The plaintiffs argued the 1994 constitutional amendment that places strict limits on commercial fishing nets is being improperly applied by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. However, the appeals court asserted that the issue of the ban has been settled through repeated rulings in prior litigation and that Fulford's ruling "however well-intentioned it might have been, was erroneous."
The plaintiffs argued that the mesh size of the nets they are required to use forces mullet fishermen to kill vast quantities of juvenile fish, violating the purpose of the amendment.
Fulford in her ruling called the way the law had been implemented a "legal absurdity." In an 11-page ruling Oct. 22, she also wrote, "The court is not saying that preserving our marine life is absurd. Instead the absurdity is created in the law and how it is being applied. It is abundantly unfair for the courts to continue to attempt enforcement of laws that contradict each other."
Fulford's ruling prompted an appeal by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.