JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Fishermen in the St. Johns River are using gill nets once again. The large nets were banned back in 1994 with 72% of the vote across the state.
Now, a judge in Leon County has given the green light to use them again.
"It's a destructive practice," Chris Cioffi.
Cioffi has been on the water all his life. He said marine life has bounced back since the ban and the judge's decision to let fishermen use the nets is a big step in the wrong direction.
"When they see this river in a couple of years, if they let this practice continue, the river won't be the same," said Cioffi.
Gill nets are one of the most effective way to catch fish. That's why it's so tightly regulated and so controversial.
Cioffi says the nets catch everything they can. That includes marine life large and small.
"It's a gold rush on florida resources," Cioffi said.
But people using the nets disagree.
"What we're doing is - we're just trying to feed our families," Robby Bell says.
Bell says he and his team, along with other fisherman are very careful when using the nets. Bell said he makes it a point to keep only what they're out to catch, keeping the environment - and the river's longevity in mind.
"We're not trying to go out and harm the environment in any way - yes we're catching fish but it's not like anything it's made out to be," Bell says. "We wanna make sure that theres fish for our grandchildren to catch."
While Cioffi says he'll join any group to overturn the judge's decision. "It's a crushing depletion of our resources that we've managed for 18 years."
Bell said there is a delicate balance between feeding his kids and watching the water.
"It's good for my family - but at the same time - we're all trying to be real careful," said Bell.
First Coast News