Largemouth Bass May Become Commercial Fish
Long Protected as Sports Fish, Bass May be Raised and Sold Under New Rule
Last updated 12/16/2021 at 11:13am
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has directed staff to move forward with draft rules allowing for the production and sale of largemouth bass following discussion at its December meeting. Statutory changes made during the 2021 legislative session sanctioned the sale of Florida largemouth bass produced in aquaculture facilities for food.
Staff worked with the legislature to incorporate genetic authentication standards into rule to ensure the continued genetic conservation of Florida's iconic freshwater game fish. At the October 2021 Commission meeting, the Commission directed staff to engage with affected stakeholders and develop rule language to allow for the culture of Florida largemouth bass as a food fish. Under present rules, the sale of a protected sports fish is illegal.
According to the FWC, "staff held four public meetings and solicited online comments from interested stakeholders. Both angling and industry stakeholders attended meetings and their combined input was taken into consideration and utilized during the rule drafting process."
"I appreciate staff's hard work in developing rules that will provide protections for Florida's iconic gamefish," said Commissioner Gary Lester. "I requested from staff more information on the enforcement procedures associated with these rules."
Key points from the draft rule language include allowing for the culture and sale of Florida largemouth bass as a food fish, while incorporating FWC's Genetic Authentication Standards for Florida largemouth bass into rule. The new rules would also continue to prohibit the importation into or transportation within the state of any live bass species, except Florida largemouth bass that meet FWC's largemouth bass Genetic Authentication Standards. Any shipment of live bass in Florida will be required to be accompanied with documentation required by Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Aquaculture (FDACS) and FWC.
FWC staff was directed to continue working with FDACS to further refine Genetic Authentication Standards and enforcement processes to ensure the long-term conservation of Florida largemouth bass.
"FWC staff will remain vigilant and maintain dialogue with FDCAS to ensure that this emerging industry for largemouth bass does not negatively impact Florida's largemouth fishery," said Eric Sutton, FWC Executive Director.