Four from the Keys want seats on FWC

A majority of the state’s leading fishery-management agency could be replaced by early 2013, and four Monroe County residents have raised their hands to volunteer.

Currently, none of the seven Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission board members have direct ties to the Florida Keys.

“The FWC is like the Public Service Commission for commercial and recreational fishing,” said Mike Puto, a former Monroe County commissioner and Marathon city manager who sent an application to Gov. Rick Scott.

“Monroe County is a major seafood producer and fishing destination,” Puto said. “There’s all this going on here.”

Bruce Popham, Marathon Boat Yard owner and former chairman of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council, also sent a resume to Tallahassee.

So did Bill Kelly, who works as executive director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association and has represented the Islamorada Charter Boat Association in marine regulatory issues.

“It’s my understanding that the governor has expressed interest in having somebody from Monroe County on the commission,” Popham said.

Kelly said he heard that straight from Rick Scott himself during a Keys visit.

“It’s also been a very long time since there was a commercial fishing representative on the board,” Kelly said. “We also represent the seafood consumer who doesn’t have the ability to go catch his own fish.”

Christopher H. Buckley Jr., an environmental-law attorney and ardent flats angler who retired to Islamorada from the Washington, D.C., area, also applied to the FWC. Buckley is on the boards of the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, the Everglades Foundation and was recently named chairman of the Atlantic Salmon Federation board.

Rodney Barreto, a Miami-Dade County resident who has property in Key Largo, served as FWC chairman over a decade before stepping down.

“There’s been no one from Monroe County since Rodney Barreto so I hope that’s something the governor considers,” Puto said. “I’ve lived in the Keys most of my life, I’m a boat owner and recreational fisherman, and I know the issues that commercial fishermen face.”

Popham said his work with the Keys sanctuary and in-depth knowledge of the marine industry could be useful.

Kelly sharpened his expertise on fishing regulatory issues while working as a charter captain, and now rarely misses an FWC meeting to speak on behalf of the commercial industry.

A spokesman for the governor’s office said Tuesday that about 40 applications for the FWC board are being reviewed. No deadline for naming board members has been announced, but it could happen early in 2013 so the members could be confirmed by the Florida Senate during this spring’s legislative session.

Three members of the current FWC board — Chairman Kenneth Wright of Winter Park, Vice Chair Kathy Barco of Jacksonville and Ron Bergeron of Fort Lauderdale — finished their first five-year terms in August and remain on the board on an interim basis.

“All three have expressed interest in being reappointed,” an FWC spokesman said.

Richard Corbett of Tampa finishes his second term in January, and has not requested to be reappointed.

The FWC oversees an agency that employees nearly 2,100 employees to manage saltwater and freshwater fishing, hunting and animal protection, and wildlife and fisheries research. The agency was formed in 1999 by merging the former Marine Fisheries Commission and the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.

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