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DIVING EQUIPMENT & MARKETING ASSOCIATION’S PROPOSED CHANGES TO PLACE FAIR LICENSURE LANGUAGE IN FLORIDA BILL ARE APPROVED BY GOVERNOR
Culmination of Effort That Began Last Year Clarifies Responsibility and Ensures Options for Divers and Dive Operators in Fishing and Lobster Licensing Law
Following months of close collaboration between the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association (DEMA) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Florida Governor Rick Scott has approved the proposed changes to place fair licensure language in Florida House Bill 7025
The amended language in House Bill 7025
makes it clear that there will now be two options for individual divers and dive charter vessel operators. The first option authorizes dive charter vessel operators to purchase a vessel license. In that case, individual divers that take or attempt to take fish or lobster do not need to obtain a separate fishing license or lobster tag. The second option is for divers to obtain their own fishing license and lobster tag, in which case the dive charter vessel operator would not be required to have a vessel-based license when advertising for or knowingly permitting divers to take fish or lobster while diving from the vessel.
“We are extremely pleased with the outcome of our efforts,” commented Tom Ingram, Executive Director of DEMA. “The previous legislation was unclear as to who would be required to possess the fishing and lobster license and therefore unfair to both dive charter vessel operators and divers. DEMA worked closely with the FWC to propose the approved changes that clearly outline responsibility and provide licensure options. Ultimately, we have ensured the protection of both divers and dive businesses.”
DEMA became involved in this issue in 2011 because of potential confusion generated just weeks prior to the opening of the two-day Florida lobster mini-season. The FWC threatened enforcement of laws which would have required dive charter vessels to have fishing licenses when divers were aboard taking lobsters or spearing fish, or when the vessel operators advertised to divers to take fish or lobster. Prior to this new enforcement effort by the FWC, individual divers had been required to purchase these licenses, however, the dive charter vessel operators were not required to have a license. This change in enforcement could have resulted in BOTH divers and dive vessel operators being forced to purchase a license, doubling the cost. DEMA worked with the FWC to hold off enforcement of the law until both sides could reach a resolution.