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Judges refuses to block net ban

Two days before the start of Florida's fishing-net ban, a judge Thursday rejected a plea by commercial netters to delay enforcement of the constitutional amendment.

"The democratic process has taken its course and all citizens must now accept the result," said Circuit Judge Philip Padovano.

"The commercial interests of the plaintiffs here are substantial," Padovano said in denying the injunction sought on behalf of five people who earn their living in the commercial fishing industry. "However, the interest of the public in the integrity of the political and electoral process is substantial as well."

Still pending was a request by Wakulla County to bar enforcement in that coastal county, where fishing is the economic backbone.

About 100 fishermen and their families packed the Wakulla County courthouse for those arguments Thursday, and Padovano said he would rule today.

But that case affects Wakulla County only and won't impact enforcement of the net ban elsewhere, said Denis Dean of the state attorney general's office.

Statewide, he said, it will go into effect at midnight tonight.

The Southeastern Fisheries Association, which raised money to pursue the injunction, won't try to challenge Padovano's ruling before the nets are banned Saturday, said executive director Bob Jones.

"The time is not there, and the order is pretty specific," he said. "The law goes into effect July 1 and I'm encouraging everyone to obey the law."

The group's attorneys will review the order and consider whether to pursue an appeal later, Jones said, but "Any time you take on the state on an issue like this, you have to be just overwhelmingly compelling."