Crayfish Controversy

By: Paul Matadeen Email
By: Paul Matadeen Email

There was a lot of talk Wednesday about a very small creature that's indigenous to Bay County.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission held a public hearing to discuss classifying the Panama City crayfish as threatened.

The Panama City crayfish is just one of 50 different crayfish species. You normally find them in ditches. Wednesday night they were at the center of a heated debate in Panama City.

"What has led to this process is a petition from the public to upgrade the Panama City crayfish to a threatened species."

Right now the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has classified the Panama City crayfish as a species of special concern.

They're protected, but no one has ever been charged for taking them. The FWC's new management plan is calling for the Panama City crayfish to be upgrade to a threatened species. The proposed plan would protect these areas shown in this sketch of Bay County.

"If this goes through, you will not be able to take it as bait for fishing in the future."

Violators could face misdemeanor charges

Stan Kirkland, spokesman for FWC, said, "The number one goal, we hope to stabilize the population, grow it, and take it where we can get it off the protected species list."

Opponents say that's a waste of time.

Frasier Bingham, an environmental consultant, said, "There are 10 different species here, and there's only one that they're truly interested in, and the adults are hard to tell apart."

The management plan will most likely remain just a draft until summer 2007.

Members from the city of Panama City, Lynn Haven, Callaway, Gulf Power, and the St. Joe Company have all helped developed this plan.

Panama City crayfish were first labeled as a species of special concern in 1987.

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