The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on Thursday advanced its long-standing policy to protect stressed shark populations in Florida waters. The action came during the second day of its three-day meeting in Naples.
Sharks have been strictly regulated in Florida since 1992, with a one-shark-per-person, two-sharks-per-vessel daily bag limit for all recreational and commercial harvesters; a ban on shark finning; and a prohibition on roughly two dozen overfished, vulnerable or rare shark species.
“Florida has been recognized as a pioneer and a leader in shark management efforts for nearly 20 years,” said FWC Chairman Kathy Barco. “We recognize that maintaining healthy shark populations is critical to the sustainability of our marine ecosystem. The additional protections we are proposing would help preserve Florida’s valuable marine resources.”
The Commission proposes protecting four additional shark species that rely on Florida’s productive coastal waters for their survival. The FWC’s proposed rules would prohibit harvest of scalloped hammerheads, great hammerheads, smooth hammerheads and tiger sharks from state waters. Scalloped hammerheads are considered overfished and are experiencing overfishing, which means that fishing pressure is too high to be sustainable. Research indicates the other three species have also suffered severe population declines in recent decades.
In addition to the proposed rules, the Commission directed staff to work with stakeholders and anglers to develop an educational campaign highlighting proper fishing and handling techniques when catching and releasing sharks. Commissioners also asked staff to explore a trophy tag program for these important sharks. The tag, similar to the one used for tarpon, would allow anglers to harvest a shark for record purposes.
A final public hearing on the proposed shark rules will be during the November FWC meeting in Key Largo.