One of the current hot topics in Florida right now is a focus on shore-based shark fishing. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is revisiting their guidelines based on pushback from the general population about the ethics and methods involved in this sport.
Land or shore-based shark fishing is exactly what it sounds like. Rather than taking a boat out to open water and dropping a line, fishermen stand on the shore and cast into the surf, usually less than 50 ft from the shore. Bait is used, but only on the line. Once hooked, the shark is reeled in and onto land. Within a recommendation of a few minutes, the fisherman will remove the hook, snap a photo, and release the animal back into the water.
The sport is enjoyed for many reasons. Impressive Instagram photos and videos are just one. Many fishermen enjoy the thrill of reeling in a large animal, and the accessibility of using the shore. It requires different tactics from open-water fishing. It is also something that cannot be done everywhere, making it an exotic sport for inland fishers.
Swimmers and scientists are the groups bringing the largest argument against this practice. Swimmers argue that this sport could encourage sharks to hang out near areas where humans swim. The practice of “chumming” or dropping food into the water to attract fish and sharks is prohibited by FWC and should not contribute to this. The fear of attracting sharks seems unlikely, as sharks routinely spend time swimming and hunting in the shallows, even if humans aren’t aware of it. Some sharks may even learn to avoid the areas where fishermen stay, if they are caught often enough and attribute a negative reaction to the area.
Scientists and proponents of shark conservation are more concerned about the welfare of the animal. In the best case scenario, the shark is caught quickly and brought on land, but still has a metal hook pierced through its mouth. Many sharks are released after being caught, but they are still brought onto the beach, out of the water, and have gone through a traumatic event. As mentioned earlier, fishermen are encouraged to keep the shark out of water for less than two minutes, and to keep the shark at least partially submerged. Some fishermen will completely beach a shark because it will make the process of removing the hook quicker. Not only do some species of sharks require constant movement to keep water flowing over their gills to breathe, but the whole experience can cause undue stress on the animal, who may become susceptible to other injuries, diseases, or predators. Depending on the hook used and what happens when the shark is caught, the shark may also have a hook embedded where the angler cannot retrieve it. Usually hooks can be removed whole, sometimes they must be cut into two, but if the hook has made it into the stomach of the animal, it is unsafe for both the person and the shark for an untrained person to attempt to remove it.
The proposed restrictions could include requiring special permits to perform shark fishing, restrictions on equipment used to catch sharks, and tighter guidelines on how the animals are handled during the process.
Currently, Florida FWC has a list of two groups of sharks that are allowed to be caught and kept, one group with no minimum size, and one group with a minimum fork length of 54 inches. Fork length is measured as the distance from the tip of the snout, or rostrum, of the shark, to the midpoint between the two forks of the tail. The daily limit of bagging (aka keeping) sharks is 1 per day, with a total of 2 sharks per boat, regardless of the number of anglers aboard. There is a third group of sharks that are completely prohibited from being harvested, along with sawfish.
Hunting, fishing, and other gamesports have, ironically, played a large part in conservation throughout the years. The money paid for lotteries and permits is used to fund scientific research and protection of animals and their environments. The purchase of permits is also to ensure that a sustainable population of sport animals is preserved.
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
SEARCH BY CATEGORIES