Amendment 4 and your Brighter Fishing Future

Submitted by Brett Fitzgerald on August, Aug 25, 2016

The Snook & Gamefish Foundation encourages anglers to play significant, personal roles in coastal and marine conservation. For example, a goal of our Angler Action Program, which anglers use to record catches, is to help improve recreational fishing data collection. As individual anglers, we are providing managers with information that helps them set regulations reflecting a stronger understanding of fish populations, and to monitor those populations for changes that may be caused by fishing or abetting factors, such as climate change.

So in the course of our personally oriented advocacy, we like to make our members and subscribers aware of easy things you can do to help our fish and marine industry. Today, we want to encourage Florida anglers to go to the polls and consider a "yes" vote on Amendment 4, the Florida Property Tax Exemptions for Renewable Energy Equipment Amendment. Here’s why:

Solar power and other sources of renewable energy are increasingly important in sustainable marine industries.

For example, contractors that build docks—especially long ones—prefer to use solar panels to generate power for boat lifts, instead of running expensive, corrosive copper wire a great distance down a dock.

Tackle shops and marinas constantly struggle to control costs so they can keep prices down for their customers. But right now Florida Power & Light (FPL) is asking the Public Service Commission to allow them to increase rates by 23 percent, by 2019. These businesses wouldn’t struggle as much with high power bills if they enjoyed the right mix of tax incentives to provide their own power, plus the ability sell power back to the grid.

Additionally, sustainable aquaculture, which reduces commercial pressure on wild fish, absolutely needs solar power. Dr. Nicole Kirchoff, who raises pinfish experimentally in Stuart, Florida, explains that, “If the power goes out we have exactly five minutes to get the generator cranking. Solar power that we generate ourselves would save us money on our power bill and spare us sleepless stormy nights.”

If passed, Amendment 4 would offer two important tax incentives for these types of businesses, and any business in Florida interested in investing in renewable energy devices. If the measure passes, businesses would not pay the “tangible personal property tax” on the equipment itself. Additionally, it would ensure that installation of renewable energy equipment, including solar panels, would not increase the commercial property value when assessed for property tax purposes. Currently, a solar system increases the assessed value of the commercial property, leading to higher property taxes.

If Amendment 4 passes, it will also advance Florida toward a clean-energy future and help Florida reduce its carbon footprint. That’s important for our fisheries, which are dealing with profound changes in ocean ecosystems, due to warming and ocean acidification that are caused by greenhouse gases associated with the burning of fossil fuels. The National Marine Fisheries Service and the fishery management councils are busy trying to development ecosystem-based fisheries management that accounts for such rapid changes.

Meanwhile, Everglades scientists agree that climate change is playing abetting roles in the extreme weather patterns that have overwhelmed our water management system and caused massive devastation in Florida Bay, the southern Indian River Lagoon and Pine Island Sound.

By voting for these commonsense tax breaks, you can help our fisheries, our fisheries managers and our marine industries—one of Florida’s most important economic engines. You may even be helping your own bottom line.

For Amendment 4 to pass (more facts on Amendment 4 here), at least 60 percent of the voters that turn out for early voting or on August 30 for the primary ballot must vote in favor of it. With a potential tropical system headed for the East Florida coast over the weekend, we encourage you to get out and vote early.

*Image notes: A sea turtle (above left, credit New York Times) swims over bleached Acropora coral. Rising ocean temperatures cause corals to shed their Zooxanthella, the symbiotic, photosynthetic algae that gives them color and provides them with energy. Ocean acidification damages the coral's skeleton by chemically eroding it. These stressors are both symptoms of climate change brought on by greenhouse gas emissions.            Climate change is causing temperatures to rise. Algae blooms (above right, credit Dr. Scott Kuhns) are encouraged by higher temperatures. The past few years, including 2016, have been among the hottest on record.


Brett Fitzgerald

Executive Director, SGF