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Lionfish invasion: FWC moves forward with management changes

Lionfish invasion: FWC moves forward with management changes

The lionfish is an invasive species that threatens Florida’s native wildlife and habitat. With that in mind, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on April 16 moved forward with steps to combat the spread of invasive lionfish.

Changes proposed by FWC staff at today’s meeting near Tallahassee will be brought back before the Commission at its June meeting in Fort Myers for final approval. Changes include:

  • Prohibiting the importation of live lionfish;
  • Prohibiting the development of aquaculture of lionfish;
  • Allowing the harvest of lionfish when diving with a rebreather, a device that recycles air and allows divers to remain in the water for longer periods of time; and
  • Increasing opportunities that will allow participants in approved tournaments and other organized events to spear lionfish or other invasive species in areas where spearfishing is not allowed. This will be done through a permitting system.

Staff has been working with the Florida Legislature on a bill in support of the initiatives to prohibit the importation of live lionfish and the aquaculture of lionfish.

“By targeting the importation of lionfish to our state, we can limit the number of new lionfish that find their way into Florida waters and, at the same time, encourage further harvest to reduce the existing invasive population,” said State Rep. Holly Raschein, sponsor of the House bill. “These fish pose a significant threat to Florida’s ecosystem, and I am proud to stand in support of the proposed ban. Anything we can do to limit new lionfish introductions and further facilitate the development of a commercial market for this invasive species is a step in the right direction.”

Changes like these will make it easier for divers to remove lionfish from Florida waters and will help prevent additional introductions of lionfish into marine habitats.

Lionfish control efforts, from outreach and education to regulatory changes, have been a priority for FWC staff. In 2013, they hosted the first ever Lionfish Summit, which brought together various stakeholders from the public as well as management and research fields to discuss the issues and brainstorm solutions. The changes proposed at today’s meeting came from ideas that were discussed at the Lionfish Summit.

To learn more about these changes, visit and “Commission Meetings.” To learn more about lionfish, visit and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Lionfish.”

FWC approves sea cucumber management changes

FWC approves sea cucumber management changes

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at its April meeting near Tallahassee established a commercial daily trip and vessel limit of 200 sea cucumbers in both state and federal waters.

This change will go into effect June 1. The Commission chose this limit today after considering potential management options. The change was requested by the existing commercial fishery as a proactive conservation measure.

While there is currently a small commercial fishery for sea cucumbers in Florida, primarily for the live aquarium trade, sea cucumbers have been commonly targeted elsewhere in the world as a food product due to their high value in Asian markets. The rapid, unregulated development of sea cucumber export fisheries elsewhere in the world has led to fishery collapses and sea cucumber depletions.

Sea cucumbers are vulnerable to overfishing due to their sedentary nature, which makes them easy to locate and collect, and because of their life-history characteristics such as their late reproductive age, their need for a dense population in order to successfully reproduce and their long life span. They are also ecologically important, as they help cycle nutrients in nutrient-poor tropical reefs and oxygenate sediments.

This proactive change to the commercial fishing regulations will ensure Florida’s populations of these ecologically important species and the fisheries they support remain sustainable.

More information about the issue is available in the “Sea Cucumber Presentation” link in the Commission meeting agenda. Go to and click on “Commission Meetings” to pull up the agenda.

Congressman Tells Low-Income Worker: Higher Minimum Wage Is ‘Not Right’

Congressman Tells Low-Income Worker: Higher Minimum Wage Is ‘Not Right’

TAMPA, Florida — People like Shaneeka Rainer are often told that they shouldn’t try to get the minimum wage increased because it only really applies to teenagers working entry-level jobs. That indeed may have described Rainer 10 years ago, when he first entered the workforce. But a decade after he got his first job in fast food, Rainer still finds himself working at Arby’s for minimum wage.

In other words, Rainer has worked an entire decade receiving only one raise: when Congress increased the minimum wage in 2007.

And so he showed up at his congressman’s public forum on Tuesday to ask Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) to finally give him and millions of other low-income Americans a raise.

Ross, who is seeking a third term representing Tampa’s northwest suburbs, was unmoved by Rainer’s plea. “It’s not right,” the Florida Republican said. “If we are going to make it a living wage, who’s going to pay for it?”

An audience member declared that he’d gladly pay slightly more for a hamburger in order to increase the minimum wage, prompting applause from the crowd.

Rainer asked the congressman whether he would be willing to come work at Arby’s with him for one day so he can see how difficult minimum wage work is, but Ross demurred. Instead, he railed against the very notion of a minimum wage and even the concept of labor laws in general. “If the government’s going to tell me how much I can get paid and when I can work and when I can’t work, then we have a serious problem in this country,” Ross said.

RAINER: Would you support the Obama act of raising the federal minimum wage?

ROSS: No. [...] I think it would do more harm to our economy than anything. You work at Arby’s, the cost of products, the cost of services are going to go up. [...]

If we are going to make it a living wage, who’s going to pay for it? Who’s going to pay for it?

AUDIENCEMEMBER: I will. I’ll pay 20 cents extra for a hamburger. [Applause]

RAINER: He said he’ll pay. So if he’ll pay, I’m going to work every day busting my butt. I want to know, would you take a walk in my shoes? Lay your tie and your suit down, just for a day, 24 hours, and take a walk in my shoes. The people that I work with, we’re keeping the economy floating and going in the cycle. But the people that hire, they’re just paying money, just throwing money. But I’m actually working every day. So why wouldn’t you support it?

ROSS: Because it’s not right. Economically, it’s not right. It does more harm to our economy. [...] If the government’s going to tell me how much I can get paid and when I can work and when I can’t work, then we have a serious problem in this country.

Watch it:

“I felt like he blew off my question,” Rainer told ThinkProgress after the town hall. “He doesn’t understand what it’s like.”

Indeed, for millions of workers, a stagnant minimum wage is actually a falling real wage. That’s because the minimum wage isn’t indexed to inflation, so $7.25 is worth about 6 percent less in 2012 than it was in 2009, for instance.

Over the past few decades, the lower and middle classes haven’t just seen dwindling incomes, but also declining opportunities for advancement. Stories like Rainer’s of workers being stuck in minimum wage jobs for years are increasingly common.

Towards the end of our conversation, Rainer’s exasperation became apparent. “I bust my butt for these people everyday,” he said in disbelief that lawmakers like Ross don’t think he deserves a raise. “Come down to Arby’s for 24 hours. Take the broom, wipe down the bathroom. See what it’s like.”

Charles Murphy News 4/17

News Cast for April 17th:

Highlands County commissioners have no objection to Lake Placid and Avon Park hauling their trash to Okeechobee’s landfill. Commission Chairman Don Elwell said a rate study of their landfill might be needed.

Avon Park is reportedly working with Waste Management for a transfer station and could accept trash from Hardee County that eventually would be trucked to Okeechobee, bringing more revenue to the landfill.

In the courts, Hendry county prosecutors dropped a charge of sexual battery on a child under 12 against Glades County resident Jeffrey Raulerson. He had been charged last Christmas Eve with two attacks on a child, allegedly using a knife. He denied all involvement.

Sex offender, 83 year old William Clark of Okeechobee received two years in prison and lifetime probation in Brevard County for lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under 12 in Palm Bay. The incident occurred in December of 2011. Clark pled guilty to the charge.

Advertising entrepreneur James Whelan will peddle twice around Lake Okeechobee this Saturday to raise money to build homes in Haiti. He will start in Clewiston early Saturday and will ride roughly 225 miles in 24 hours.

Whelan has ridden his bike across the country before to Canada and Alaska to raise money for various charities. The Caring house project has been building villages in Haiti since 2003. You can help out by going to

Sports Cast for April 17th:

Kevin Coleman and Trenton Hickman had two run singles in a five run fifth inning as the Brahman baseball team defeated Lincoln Park Academy 8-1 at Tradition Field Wednesday.

Elijah Finney threw five strong innings to get the win for OHS.

He said he struggled a bit but was able to make pitches when he had to. Finney was picked up by some good defense by Paul Jackson and others during the game. He said he tries to encourage his fielders to play well. Kutter Crawford had three hits and Gabe Greseth added two hits for Okeechobee who finish the regular season at 12-10.

South fork scored twice in the top of the seventh inning to stun Okeechobee 7-6 in girls’ softball action last night at Districts ending the Lady Brahman season.

There are no sports events today involving Okeechobee High school teams.

Gulf recreational red snapper season set

Gulf recreational red snapper season set

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) set the Gulf recreational red snapper season in state waters April 16 at a meeting near Tallahassee. The season will be a total of 52 days in 2014 and will start the Saturday before Memorial Day (May 24 this year) and remain open through July 14, closing July 15.

Starting the season the Saturday before Memorial Day will provide recreational red snapper fishing through an important holiday weekend, helping attract more visitors and bringing economic benefits to our coastal communities.

The federal season is currently projected to be 11 days long, starting June 1 and remaining open through June 11. This season is subject to change depending on projections by NOAA Fisheries for when the recreational red snapper quota may be caught.

Florida state waters in the Gulf are from shore to 9 nautical miles. Federal waters extend from where state waters end, out to about 200 nautical miles.

The daily bag limit will remain 2 per person in state and federal waters.

To learn more about this agenda item, visit and click on “Commission Meetings.” To learn more about recreational red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, visit and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Gulf Snapper.”

YMCA Okeechobee Counselor Candidates

YMCA Okeechobee Counselor Candidates  (YMCA Okeechobee summer camp will be located at Sacred Heart Church in Okeechobee)

Must have experience with children 5-12 years old, attention to detail, great attitude, represent the YMCA and our Mission in a positive fashion

Must pass Level 2 FBI Background Check, Drug Test, and  Mandatory YMCA Training in May and June, CPR and First Aid Certified (may start process after being hired)

Please download the counselor application at and fax your application along with the YMCA Completed Test to 1-866-546-3450 attention Shawn Keil/YMCA Okeechobee Camp Counselor. You may also mail your application to the address below.

Great Seasonal Position – up to 40 hours per week for the summer- Pay is based on experience and starts at $8 – college students or college bound students welcome to apply- must be over 17

Phone calls will not be returned without application

Award-winning FWC Officer of the Year recognized at Commission meeting

Award-winning FWC Officer of the Year recognized at Commission meeting

Officer Lee Lawshe of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) received the 2014 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award among other prestigious awards he received this year.

“Lawshe stands out among the FWC’s 853 officers in the field and has proved to be an exemplary officer and an asset to the state’s citizens and natural resources,” said Col. Calvin Adams, director of the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement, explaining why Lawshe was the FWC’s Officer of the Year and why he was recently selected to receive the Florida Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Officer of the Year award and the State Law Enforcement Chiefs Association’s SLECA Officer of the Yearaward.

Today, the Shikar-Safari Club International named Lawshe its 2013 Wildlife Officer of the Year during the FWC Commission meeting at the Florida Public Safety Institute near Tallahassee.

“In 2013, his notable activities included rescuing a man missing for days in a swamp, apprehending a suspect during a manhunt, and catching people illegally harvesting redfish, trespassing and harming gopher tortoises,” Adams said. “He represents the best of what an FWC officer should be.”

Supervisors describe Lawshe, who works in St. Johns County, as a team player within the FWC and with its partner law enforcement agencies, taking what he calls a “helping hand” approach to his work, whether that is mentoring, doing outreach, joining manhunts or rescuing people.

He joined the FWC in 2008, coming to the agency from a family of outdoorsmen, from Airborne Ranger School and with awards for his tour in the Middle East in a Quick Reaction Force.

Shikar-Safari Club International is a conservation-based organization that presents awards annually to wildlife law enforcement officers in all states, provinces and territories in the United States and Canada. The annual award honors a state officer whose efforts show outstanding performance and achievement among sworn fish and wildlife law enforcement personnel.

Fresh From Florida Expands

“Fresh From Florida” Expands International Reach with New Partnership at Outback Steakhouse Locations in South Korea

South Korea is the Fastest Growing Trade Market for Florida Agricultural Exports

Tallahassee, FL – Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam announced today a unique partnership with Outback Steakhouse restaurants in South Korea to promote “Fresh From Florida” grapefruit during their spring/summer menu.

“We are proud to announce this great partnership with an iconic American restaurant in a growing market,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “South Korea continues to be a great trade partner, especially in Florida grapefruit, and this unique venture will highlight Florida citrus in an exclusive menu item.”

There are currently 110 Outback locations in South Korea that will begin featuring a “Fresh From Florida” red grapefruit cocktail today. Since 2007, the volume of Florida grapefruit exports to South Korea has grown more than 400 percent to more than 358,000 cartons this year. From January through March, Florida is the source for more than 80 percent of all U.S. grapefruit exports, reaching almost $100 million in 2013.

Total exports of Florida products to Korea also continue to increase. In 2013, South Korea received more than $52.5 million worth of Florida agricultural products, ranking it Number 22 in the world. South Korea is currently the fastest growing major market for exports from Florida.

In addition to the Outback partnership, other international successes in Asia include:

  • South Korean distributor JinWon has expanded marketing efforts of fresh Florida grapefruit to 300 stores across Korea.
  • Okuwa grocery has agreed to promote fresh grapefruit in 173 grocery stores in Japan.
  • A partnership with Growers Synergy in Singapore provides Valencia oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, juice and blueberry wine to 170 retail outlets.

For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit

FWC continues a strong presence in Lake Mary

FWC continues a strong presence in Lake Mary

Tuesday afternoon the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) captured an adult female bear near the scene of a recent attack.

FWC staff identified this bear early on as one that demonstrated it was habituated to people and food. This is the first opportunity the FWC has had to safely capture this bear. Based on its actions and the need to maintain public safety, the bear was put down.

FWC staff will remain in the area working with residents and local authorities.

The FWC reminds residents in this area to be aware of their surroundings and always supervise pets and children while outdoors. The FWC relies on residents to report threatening bear behavior. Residents should contact the FWC’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) to report any threatening bear activity.

If you encounter a bear at close range, remain standing upright and speak to the bear in a calm, assertive voice. Back up slowly toward a secure area, and be sure you are leaving the bear a clear escape route. Stop and hold your ground if your movement away seems to irritate instead of calm the bear. Do not run or play dead. If a black bear attacks you, fight back aggressively.

Also, citizens with any information regarding the intentional feeding of bears should contact the FWC’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922). If you supply relevant information you may be eligible for a reward and you can remain anonymous.

Charles Murphy News 4/16

News Cast for April 16th:

The county and sheriff Paul May gave 20 minute presentations before staff members of the governor and cabinet Tuesday during a 90 minute hearing on their budget impasse.  The two sides are 1.7 million apart. The group continues to request a local solution but that appears unlikely.  A ruling could be made on May 7th and ratified by the Governor and Cabinet on May 13th.

Under Sheriff Noel Stephen said both sides gave strong cases to the group, including the county. Stephen says the Sheriff has cut to the bone and has no other areas to cut except jobs.

It appears the Glades Detention Center may stay open another year, private investors are considering dipping into reserve funds to keep the facility open. If closed, the Sheriff’s office would lose about 1 hundred employees and would move back into the old county jail in the city of Moore Haven.

A 36 year old Lorida man, Rocky Ladson was charged with battering a woman at a Lorida RV Park and with robbery and false imprisonment after an alleged disturbance on March 11th.

44 year old Cynthia Tommie was arrested by city police for allegedly possession over 8 grams of crack cocaine.

25 year old John McNeil was charged with possession with the intent to sell cocaine, resisting arrest and sale of cocaine after deputies tried to serve an arrest warrant on him in Douglas Park Monday evening.

36 year old Christopher Longano of West Palm Beach and 32 year old Charles Buchanon was charged with the theft of a light pole on 441 south east, the pole is worth 5 thousand dollars.

37 year old John Salmons was charged with dealing in stolen property and giving false information to a metal recycler.  He allegedly stole 24 hundred dollars in wiring from a construction site on the Brighton Indian reservation and sold it at an Okeechobee scrap yard.

Sports Cast for April 16th:

Catcher Gabe Greseth prepares for the pitch from Kutter Crawford at senior night Tuesday. Senior dads, Neal Crawford (right)  and Shawn Crews threw out the ceremonnial first pitches at the Brahman game Tuesday. Armando Rodriguez keeps the runner close, Tony Womack at first base. Paul Jackson dives back to the bag as Levi Osceola takes the throw.Kutter Crawford threw six strong innings and added two doubles in the game as Okeechobee defeated Desoto to celebrate senior night 8-1 last night.

Layton Thomas drove in three runs and Jarred Morgan added a two run single for the Brahmans.

Crawford said he felt some pressure to perform at his senior night but tried to focus and battle the Bulldog hitters. Fellow senior Christian Crews came on to pitch a scoreless seventh inning for the Brahmans and also scored a run for Okeechobee.

He said the team fought hard after a disappointing loss on Monday. Paul Jackson added an RBI single for the Brahmans.

On the sports schedule today, girls’ softball battles South Fork at their district tournament tonight at Jensen Beach at 5 pm.   Brahman baseball ends the regular season at Lincoln Park with a matinee today at 3 pm at Tradition Field.

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