Overall the FWC meeting on Sept 10th went extremely well and Dr Gruber is happy! The Commissioners spoke very favorably about amending the rules to add lemons, tigers and hammerheads (great, scalloped and smooth) and possibly bulls to the prohibited list, and also to require circle hooks for shark fishing.
We were hoping that they would make the decision right then and there, but after some discussion the Commissioners decided that they should first get some more input from staff. For one, they would like to have more data to be able to make the case for Federal protections, since some of the lemon shark aggregations span State and Federal waters. They also cited concern about protecting one species and then just shifting the fishing pressure to another species. So while the focus was clearly on the lemon sharks to protect their winter aggregations, the Commission is open to adding protections for other shark species that are vulnerable.
The final public hearing will take place in December. In the meantime, we would still encourage you to send comments to the Commissioners (Commissioners@MyFWC.com).
If you send a comment, please thank the Commissioners for their leadership in protecting sharks and let them know that you support adding more vulnerable shark species to the Prohibited Species list, especially Lemon Sharks, Hammerheads, Tigers and Bulls. Observations from any of you who have been diving and fishing in Florida for a long time with regard to the declines in shark populations in Florida and specifically which species have declined the most would be helpful. And of course scientific data documenting these declines is important as well.
And please don’t forget about the proposed circle hook requirement. This is huge! In Florida alone over a million sharks are caught and released. The use of circle hooks vs J hooks has been demonstrated to increase the post-release survival dramatically. So this rule alone could potentially save the lives of hundreds of thousands of sharks in Florida every year.