1. FWC creates new lionfish removal incentive program

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) received $25,000 in charitable donations from six sponsors at its Dec. 5 meeting.

The funds will go to the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and will be used as cash prizes for a new lionfish removal incentive program, rewarding harvesters who find and remove lionfish previously tagged by FWC staff.

Lionfish are an invasive species that can reduce native fish populations and negatively affect the overall reef habitat.

The program will run May 19 through Sept. 3, 2018, and will coincide with the annual summer-long Lionfish Challenge, which rewards recreational and commercial divers for harvesting lionfish.

2. Planning Board continues to discuss sign ordinance

The Marco Island Planning Board met Friday morning in the City Council's chambers and continued its discussion of the city's sign ordinance.

At its Nov. 17 meeting, the Planning Board reviewed the legal background and general legal principals of sign regulation, and made recommendations on a substantial portion of the city's sign ordinance.

More: Marco Island Planning Board: 'Signs’ of future discussions

The discussion was prompted by Reed vs. the Town of Gilbert, Ariz., a court case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and upended the way that signs are regulated in this country. The town’s ordinance, which granted various sizes to political candidates’ signs, “ideological” signs and event signs advertising a specific event, was found to be unconstitutional.

The board will continue to work with legal counsel and city staff to update the city's sign ordinance and ensure that it's in compliance with both federal and state law.

3. Submerged sailboat mast removed from Rose Marina waters

Collier Seawall & Dock removed a submerged sailboat mast from the waters near Rose Marina’s “A” dock Friday morning. The large mast was from a vessel that was anchored in Factory Bay during Hurricane Irma. The mast did not break off during the storm, however; the owner removed it after the fact and let it sink.

"I'm not sure why he did that but was an obvious hazard to navigation," Daniel High, Rose Marina's general manager, said. "Collier Seawall & Dock did this as a community service and should be commended for their assistance, as we all know their schedule is full. This is certainly an early Christmas gift to our maritime community."

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