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NOAA 04 R487
October 7, 2004

Cheva Heck/Florida Keys
National Marine Sanctuary
(305) 292-0311, ext. 26
(305) 304-0179, cellular


The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, today announced the availability of permits allowing fishermen to use hook and line to catch ballyhoo in three Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPA). NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department Commerce.

The sanctuary agreed to allow hair-hooking of ballyhoo under a pilot program recommended by its baitfish working group and endorsed by the Sanctuary Advisory Council. Under this pilot program, fishermen can apply for permits to hair hook ballyhoo in three Upper Keys SPAs: Conch Reef, Davis Reef and Alligator Reef. Hair-hook gear consists of 6 lb. or lower test monofilament line with a bobber or float attached, followed by a maximum of 20 inches of line, followed by a thin gauge (#12 or smaller) barbless hook.

The permit conditions include several measures that aim to minimize any confusion that may affect education and enforcement in the SPAs due to the presence of hook and line fishing, which is otherwise not allowed.

“We have agreed to this trial period for hair-hooking in response to requests by sailfish charter captains, an important industry in the Upper Keys, who say that it will allow them to catch ballyhoo when conditions make netting difficult,“ said Sanctuary Superintendent Billy Causey. “We will be watching this pilot program carefully to ensure that it safeguards the critical marine resources protected by the SPAs.”

Permits would allow ballyhoo hair-hooking from Oct. 15, 2004 through
April 15, 2005, between the hours of 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. daily. Permittees must display a flag while catching ballyhoo via hair hook in the three SPAs. They must also maintain and submit a log that lists information such as whether fishing locations were inside and outside the SPAs, the number of fish caught and any bycatch. The
sanctuary will use information from the logs to evaluate the environmental and management impacts of the fishing method and decide whether to continue the permits past the Oct. 15, 2004 through April 15, 2005 trial period.

Permit applications are available in electronic format from Joanne Delaney via email at or from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Web site at Applicants may pick up paper copies from the sanctuary’s office at mile marker 95.2 bayside, Key Largo or from Capt. Steve Leopold of the Islamorada Charterboat Association.

Fishermen who want to use a cast net to catch ballyhoo in the SPAs must continue to obtain a separate permit. The use of a cast net to catch ballyhoo and other baitfish has been allowed by permit in all 18 SPAs since their establishment in 1997 in recognition of the economic importance of these areas for baitfishing.

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, designated in 1990, protects 2,896 square nautical miles of critical marine habitat, including coral reef, hard bottom, seagrass meadows, mangrove communities and sand flats. NOAA and the state of Florida manage the sanctuary.

The National Marine Sanctuary Program seeks to increase the public awareness of America’s maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration, and educational programs. Today, 13 national marine sanctuaries encompass more than 18,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

NOAA’s Ocean Service (NOS) manages the National Marine Sanctuary Program, and is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving, and restoring the nation’s coasts and oceans. NOS balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats, and mitigating coastal hazards.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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