Help Protect Florida's Hammerhead and Tiger Sharks

Posted on June 14, 2011
Written by: Shark Savers

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) is holding public workshops about increasing protections for Florida sharks. All Floridians who care about our oceans: please join to provide public comment to add Hammerheads and Tigers to Florida's protected list of species We have prepared a talking points guideline for you. Click FWC Workshop 2011 Talking Points.pdf to download it.

Can you attend any of these Workshops? Please contact Shark Savers at savefloridasharks@sharksavers.org. We will connect you with Shark Savers staff and members planning to attend the Workshop and answer any questions you might have.

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Details

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is holding public workshops to solicit public comment on possible changes to the Commission's current shark rule (Chapter 68B-44, F.A.C.). Specifically, they will be gathering public comments on the possible addition of several species of sharks to the list of species that are prohibited from harvest. The Commission will also be gathering comments on possible gear requirement changes and regulatory changes that could affect the practice of chumming when fishing for sharks from shore.

Our Objectives

1.  Add Large Coastal Shark species to the Prohibited Species List.

  • Hammerhead Sharks (Great, Scalloped and Smooth)
  • Tiger Sharks

2.  Require circle hooks for shark fishing - commercial and recreational. This rule will greatly improve post-release survival with catch and release sport fishing and unintended commercial catches.

Who should attend the FWC Workshops?

All Floridians who care about our oceans! The FWC Commissioners will want to know how Florida residents and visitors feel about this issue. Input from scientists, divers, fishermen, and anyone who has information, whether scientific data or personal observations, on the declines in populations of sharks and their value to Florida, will be especially important. If you are passionate about our environment and the protection of hammerhead and tiger sharks, your testimony is also extremely valuable.

Come to the FWC Workshop nearest you!  Come and be a Shark Saver!

Date

Time

Location

 June 20, 2011

 6:00 pm-8:00 pm EDT

 Brevard Agricultural Center
 3695 Lake Drive
 Cocoa, FL 32926

 June 21, 2011

 6:00 pm-8:00 pm EDT

 IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame
 300 Gulf Stream Way
 Dania Beach, FL 33004

 June 22, 2011

 6:00 pm-8:00 pm EDT

 Harvey Government Center
 1200 Truman Avenue
 Key West, FL 33040

 June 23, 2011

 6:00 pm-8:00 pm EDT

 Terrace Building, Rm 1001
 101 S. Washington Blvd.
 Sarasota, FL 34236

 June 28, 2011

 6:00 pm-8:00 pm CDT

 Destin Community Center
 101 Stahlman Avenue
 Destin, FL 32541

 June 30, 2011

 6:00 pm-8:00 pm EDT

 St. Johns County Auditorium
 4020 Lewis Speedway
 St. Augustine, FL 32095

What if I can’t make it to one of the Workshops?

PHONE LINE COMMENTS 

The FWC Commission is also holding a phone conference to gather public comments:

July 7, 2011 - 6:00-8:00 p.m. EDT (5:00-7:00 p.m. CDT)

The public may access this workshop via voice-only line. Please RSVP at 850-487-0554 to obtain instructions to join the phone-in meeting.

EMAIL COMENTS

You can also send written comments to: Commissioners@MyFWC.com
Scientific and observational data to: Aaron.Podey@MyFWC.com
Please copy your emailed comments to us at savefloridasharks@sharksavers.org.

MAIL-IN COMMENTS

Kathleen Hampton
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
620 South Meridian Street Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600

Why protect Florida’s sharks?

Florida’s waters provide important habitats for sharks. Therefore, Florida is in a unique position to make a significant contribution to the health of shark populations, not just in Florida, but along the entire U.S. East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean.

ECOSYSTEM: Healthy shark populations help ensure healthy marine ecosystems.

ECONOMY: Tourism and water-related industries, including boating, fishing and diving, are vital to Florida’s economy. Protecting our marine ecosystems by protecting sharks helps ensure the future prosperity of these industries.

HUMAN HEALTH: Large sharks contain unsafe levels of mercury and other toxins. The continued harvest or recreational catch of large sharks supports the unhealthy consumption of shark meat. Note: The Florida Department of Health advises NO ONE eat shark meat from any animal over 43 inches in length. See page 31 of Your Guide to Eating Fish Caught in Florida.

GLOBAL DECLINES: Worldwide sharks are under enormous commercial fishing pressure mainly due to the demand for shark fin soup. Tens of millions of sharks per year are caught and killed for consumption and shark products.

  • Great Hammerhead Shark: IUCN Status = Endangered worldwide with a “decreasing” population trend and “Very High Risk of Extinction.” Regionally, endangered in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and critically endangered in the Eastern Atlantic.

  • Scalloped Hammerhead Shark: IUCN Status = Endangered worldwide.

  • Smooth Hammerhead Shark: IUCN Status = Vulnerable worldwide with a “High Risk of Extinction.”

  • Tiger Shark: IUCN Status = Near Threatened meaning the species has been evaluated against scientific criteria but insufficient data contributes to unknown population trends; Threatenedstatus is likely in the near future.

When will a decision be made?

Based on input received, FWC Analysts will prepare a recommendation to the FWC Commissioners. This recommendation will be presented at the next schedule Commission meeting, which will be held in Naples September 7 – 9th. There will be additional opportunity for stakeholder and public testimony at this Commission meeting. The Commissioners may decide to vote on the shark proposals at this meeting, but more likely the vote will be scheduled for the November 16 – 17th Commission meeting in Key Largo.

Facts About Shark Species Under Consideration

Great Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna mokarran)

Great hammerheads are targeted for their fins and also suffer very high by-catch mortality. This species only reproduces once every two years, making it vulnerable to over-exploitation and population depletion. Low survival at capture also make this shark highly vulnerable to fishing pressure, whether directed or incidental. Great hammerhead’s numbers in the Gulf of Mexico and the Northwest Atlantic are estimated to have declined by greater than 50% over the past ten years. The decline is poorly documented and has not been curtailed.[2]

In the Northwest and Western Central Atlantic, analysis of U.S. pelagic longline logbook data estimated that Sphrynidae (including S. lewini (scalloped hammerhead), S. mokarran (great hammerhead) and S. zygaena (smooth hammerhead) declined in abundance by 89% since 1986. [7]

Great Hammerheads are also targeted by recreational fishermen as a trophy catch. Pregnant female Great Hammerheads are of special concern. These females come in closer to shore to feed and give birth in Florida during the late Spring and Summer months, when most Florida shark tournaments take place.

IUCN Status - The Great Hammerhead is classified by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered worldwide. The population trend for this species is also “Decreasing”. “Endangered” is defined by the IUCN as Very High Risk of Extinction. Regionally they are assessed as Endangered in the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico and Critically Endangered (Extremely High Risk of Extinction) in the Eastern Atlantic. [2]

Essential Fish Habitat Zones - EFH zones for all life stages for the Great Hammerhead are located all along Florida’s coasts and also extend farther up the East Coast. [3] If you look at a EFH Detail Map you’ll see that the concentration of Great

Hammerheads occurs overwhelmingly in Florida. [11]

Scalloped Hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini)

Worldwide, scalloped hammerheads are vulnerable to capture as both target and by-catch in fisheries: large numbers of juveniles are captured in a variety of fishing gears in near shore coastal waters, and adults are taken in gillnets and longlines along the shelf and offshore in oceanic waters. Population segregation and the species’ aggregating habit make large schools highly vulnerable to fisheries and means that high CPUEs (Catch Per Unit Effort) can be recorded, even when stocks are severely depleted. Hammerhead shark fins are more highly valued than other species because of their high fin ray count, leading to increased targeting of this species in some areas.

Where catch data are available, significant declines have been documented: both species-specific estimates for S. lewini and grouped estimates for Sphyrna spp. combined suggest declines in abundance of 50–90% over periods of up to 32 years in several areas of its range, including South Africa, the Northwest and Western Central Atlantic and Brazil. Interviews with fishermen also suggest declining trends. Similar declines are also inferred in areas of the species’ range from which specific data are not available, but fishing pressure is known to be high.

Although S. lewini is relatively fecund compared to other large sharks (with litters of 12–38 pups), the generation period is greater than 15 years in the Gulf of Mexico and its life history characteristics mean that its resilience to exploitation is relatively low. Given the major declines reported in many areas of this species’ range, increased targeting for its high-value fins, low resilience to exploitation, and largely unregulated, continuing fishing pressure from both inshore and offshore fisheries, this species is assessed by the IUCN as Endangered globally.

Northwest and Western Central Atlantic: Estimates of trends in abundance are available from two long-term research surveys conducted on the US East Coast, both of which indicate this species has undergone substantial declines in this region (98% between 1972 and 2003, and an order of magnitude between 1975 and 2005). A third survey comparing catch rates between 1983/1984 with those in 1993–1995 showed a decline of two-thirds, while a survey beginning more recently showed increases in catch rates of juveniles. Standardized catch rates from the US pelagic longline fishery show declines in Sphyrna spp. of 89% between 1986 and 2000 (according to the logbook data) and declines of 76% between 1992 and 2005 (according to observer data). [7]

IUCN Status - The Scalloped Hammerhead is classified by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered Worldwide.

Essential Fish Habitat Zones - EFH zones for all life stages for the Scalloped Hammerhead are located all along Florida’s coasts and also extend farther up the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. [3]

Smooth Hammerheads (Sphyrna zygaena)

Although few data are available on S. zygaena’s life-history characteristics, it is a large hammerhead shark and presumably at least as biologically vulnerable as S. lewini. This species is caught with a wide variety of gears in both coastal and oceanic fisheries, as bycatch and a target. Therefore in some areas, all size classes and reproductive stages are susceptible to capture. Sphyrna zygaena’s large fins are highly valued for their high fin ray count and they are being increasingly targeted in some areas in response to increasing demand for the fin trade. Few species-specific data are available to assess population trends because catches of hammerhead sharks are often grouped together under a single category. [7]

IUCN Status - The smooth hammerhead is classified by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species at Vulnerable Worldwide. Vulnerable is defined by the IUCN as High Risk of Extinction. [7]

Tiger Sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier)

“The eastern seaboard’s longest continuous shark-targeted survey (UNC), conducted annually since 1972 off North Carolina, demonstrates sufficiently large declines in great sharks to imply their likely functional elimination.” This survey from fisheries and research vessels dating from the 1972 to 2005 indicates that tigersharks may have declined by as much as 97%. [5]

According to NOAA's Draft Amendment to The Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan, Sept. 2008, tiger sharks caught by commercial fisheries are usually discarded due to the low quality of their meat and fins. In addition to not being a commercially important species, tiger sharks are very slow to reproduce -- estimated only once every two to three years. [8]

IUCN Status - The tiger shark appears on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Near Threatened. The population trend is Unknown. Near Threatened means that the species has been evaluated against the criteria but does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable now, but is close to qualifying for or is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future.[2]

Essential Fish Habitat Zones - EFH zones for tiger sharks extend up and down the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. [3]

The EFH Detail Map for tiger sharks in the neonate life stage, which indicates where the pregnant tiger sharks go to give birth, shows that these individuals are concentrated almost exclusively in Florida coastal waters. [4]

References

[1] South Atlantic Fishery Management Council - Habitat and Ecosystem Section - Essential Fish Habitat http://www.safmc.net/Default.aspx?tabid=56

[2] IUCN Red List 2009 - http://www.iucnredlist.org/

[3] NOAA Habitat Conservation - Highly Migratory Species data evaluation tool -http://sharpfin.nmfs.noaa.gov/website/EFH_mapper/HMS/map.aspx

[4] Essential Fish Habitat Neonate/YOY Tiger Shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/EFH/Final/Final%20PDFs/Final_Tiger_Shark_NEO.pdf

[5] Cascading Effects of the Loss of Apex Predatory Sharks from a Coastal Ocean - Ransom A. Myers, et al. Science 315, 1846 (2007)

[7] The Conservation Status of Pelagic Sharks and Rays - Report of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group - Pelagic Shark Red List Workshop. Tubney House, University of Oxford, UK, 19-23 February 2007.

[8] NOAA Draft Amendment to The Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan, Sept. 2008.

[9] Lifestyle of Sharks, Dr. Samuel H. Gruber, Shark Conference 2000.http://www.pacfish.org/sharkcon/documents/gruber.html

[10] Sharks, rays and chimaeras: the status of the Chondrichthyan fishes. By Sarah L. Fowler, IUCN Shark Specialist Group

[11] EFH All Life Stages Great Hammerhead (Spyrna Mokarran)http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/EFH/Final/Final%20PDFs/Final_Great_Hammerhead_Shark_ALL.pdf