Hammerhead and Tiger sharks are one step away from full protection in Florida waters

Posted on September 14, 2011
Written by: Shark Savers

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On Thursday, September 8, 2011 after more than a year of conservation advocacy, scientific review, and community input, and based on their staffs’ recommendation, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a draft rule that would prohibit the harvest of three species of hammerhead sharks – great, smooth, and scalloped – and tiger sharks in Florida waters.At the Naples meeting, Aaron Podey, an FWC fisheries management analyst, provided an excellent summary and justification for the increased protections for these apex predators:
Florida’s coastal waters provide critical nursery habitat for pregnant female sharks.Hammerheads have low reproductive potential and have suffered more than a 50% decline in the northwest Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.

Female tiger sharks don’t reach reproductive age until 15years of age.Great and scalloped hammerheads listed as endangered and smooth hammerheads listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN); tiger sharks are listed as near-threatened.All are under extreme fishing pressure, worldwide, for the valuable shark fin trade.

Florida shark advocates Shark Savers, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, "The Shark Brothers" – Brooks and Sean Paxton, responsible fishermen, and concerned citizens all testified in support of the increased protections in addition to an educational campaign about the proper use of circle-hooks in catch-and-release shark fishing and proper shark handling techniques.

Shark Savers’ staff presented scientific findings in support of the increased protections both at the individual species level and from an ecosystem-function and natural resources management perspective. Additionally, a compelling case was made about both the ecosystem and economic value of live sharks all over the world and how Florida may benefit from healthier populations of its large coastal sharks. FWC Chairman, Kathy Barco commented, "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." Shark Savers and our partners will continue to work with Commission staff, responsible fishermen, marine-based businesses, and concerned citizens to assure that Florida’s large coastal sharks are protected.
A final public hearing on the draft shark rules will be held during the November 16-17 FWC Commission meeting in Key Largo. Shark Savers, our partners and colleagues and Florida shark advocates will continue to work with Commission staff, responsible fishermen, marine-based businesses, and concerned citizens to assure that Florida’s large coastal sharks are protected.

HOW CAN YOU HELP? If you are a Florida resident and can attend the November FWC meeting, please join us; every additional person present or testifying helps impress upon the Commission that the public supports their actions to further protect large coastal sharks.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission
Public Meeting
Key Largo Grande Resort and Beach Club
9700 South Overseas Highway
Key Largo, FL 33037

November 16-17, 20118:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The final vote on these new Florida shark protections will likely take place the morning of 11/17/2011. For the complete FWC Meeting schedule when it becomes available and for other important shark conservation news, please sign-up for the Shark Savers Newsletter.