Manatee County, FL – Controversy over new fishing regulations proposed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are being viewed as an attack on Hmong anglers. The proposed regulations in sec. 2.34.92(a) limits the harvesting and consumption of live pichards in Florida waters. The new rules would limit pichard possession to a dozen a day unless being used as bait only.
The past five years the FWC has seen a population reduction in greenbacks. Although not publicly mentioning any one group, privately speaking many anglers attribute this decline to the rise in the number of ethnic Hmong anglers who harvest and consume these baitfish. “Grouper” a longtime Skyway pier fisherman says he has seen a definite reduction the last few years. “Years ago, the waters were filled with baitfish, it looked like it was raining for miles on out to the gulf. Today I’m lucky to find a few schools of baitfish. I’m not going to blame anyone but I’ve seen a few people take home buckets of baitfish.”
The FWC denies any allegations they are targeting any certain group. They attribute the loss to red tide, water runoff, and overconsumption.
Neng Thao says they are lying. “They saying they not target Hmong people but I knowing, how do they expecting I feed my families. We dry the fishes to get through the winter time, make fry fish chips, and steam them hot with spicy pepper.” ZQ asked why he did not target bigger fish? “Bigger fish take time, I used to come throwing one time and I have three buckets of baitfish, now I getting 5 fish, so I keeping everything.” Another Hmong angler Fue Xiong, who makes laab out of everything says “I love greenback laab, I make it for my friends but I tell them it’s grouper. They can’t tell the difference.”
The FWC invites anyone to call their offices to discuss any issues or concerns they may have with these new regulations. ■