Barracuda large and small could gain more protection from harvest beginning in January, but midsized predators could still be boated.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission members likely will make a final decision on an amendment to state barracuda regulations at the board’s Nov. 17 meeting in St. Petersburg.

FWC staff has endorsed a slot size of 15 to 36 inches, fork length, for barracuda harvested in the Florida Keys and South Florida waters. That means if the rule passes Nov. 17, barracuda smaller than 15 inches would have to be released beginning Jan. 1.

As proposed, the rule would allow one large barracuda over 36 inches per boat to be kept as a trophy fish. Any other large barracuda would have to be released.

“Biologically, conserving the large spawners in a population can lead to very sustainable fisheries,” a staff report says. “Given that egg production increases exponentially with the size of a female fish, conserving large fish sustains future recruitment.”

State biologists point to increased numbers of redfish, spotted sea trout and snook after size slot limits were enacted for those species. “Slot limits have led to rapid increases in large spawning fish, even in those fisheries that allow for one fish over the slot to be harvested,” the report notes.

As recently as 2015, anglers and commercial harvesters could take as many barracuda, of any size, that they wanted.

FWC commissioners acted in September 2015 to impose a two barracuda per person limit, with a boat limit of six barracuda, for both recreational and commercial harvests. That rule, which took effect last November, does not include any size limits.

“There’s really no reason to kill a barracuda,” said Don DeMaria, a commercial-fishing diver. “They’re not good to eat; the ones down here can be toxic. If more

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