Veterans can get break on commercial fishing licenses

Florida Keys military veterans now have an easier path to joining the commercial fishing industry.

A new program approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Gov. Rick Scott drops requirements that veterans must show income from fishing to qualify for restricted-species permits needed by commercial fishermen for most types of food fish.

The measure applies to Florida veterans who were or will be honorably discharged between Sept. 11, 2001, to June 30, 2014.

Florida veterans with a disability of at least 10 percent, regardless of date of discharge, also can apply.

“Spanish and king mackerel, flounder, shrimp, mahi mahi [dolphin] and several reef fish are among the list of species that require a restricted species endorsement,” says an FWC report.

Lobster and stone crab also are included in the restricted-species waiver, but the act does not bestow any allocation of trap tags needed to fish with lobster traps or stone-crab traps. Tags can be purchased from other fishermen.

Generally, fishermen or women seeking restricted-species endorsement must have a commercial Saltwater Products License, and be able to document earning $5,000 or 25 percent of their annual income in a recent year to the sale of saltwater fish.

The program temporarily removes that requirement for veterans, but veterans who secure endorsements must meet the income requirement after one year of fishing. Income requirements are lower for disabled veterans.

Scott said the program, which took effect on Veterans Day, “gives thanks to the men and women that served our nation so courageously … [and] provides them with more support so they can pursue careers in fishing here in Florida.”

For details on the program, go to www.myfwc.com/Fishing. Click on “Saltwater Fishing” and “Commercial.”

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