There was an excellent turnout of shark scientists, dive operators, conservation groups and concerned citizens who came together to present a coordinated and factual appeal to the FWC for protection of lemon sharks and the other large coastal shark species. Several people even drove three hours to attend to the Workshop in Fort Myers -- thank you!!
The case presented for the sharks was very compelling. Both the scientific evidence and the economic case for the value of a live shark vs a dead shark was overwhelming.
The group of commercial shark fishermen at the Dania Beach meeting felt outnumbered and were understandably unhappy. They expressed concerns that the closures and restrictions on one species after another was gradually putting them out of business. Other attendees, however, urged them to consider ecotourism as an alternative. Jim Abernethy offered his assistance in making this change, and another gentlemen spoke about his personal experience of changing from commercial fishing to ecotourism. For him it has been both profitable and rewarding. The fishermen weren't particularly open to the idea, but at least the seed has been planted. Hopefully some of them will consider it.
In summary, we're confident and very optimistic, but it's not time to relax yet. The two FWC analysts who conducted the Workshops will now work on their recommendation to the Commissioners. These recommendations should be made public sometime in November.
At the December 10th Commission meeting in Clewiston, Florida the FWC Commissioners will vote on whether or not to add Lemon Sharks to the Prohibited Species list. It will be important to have another good turnout at this meeting.
Other coastal species are on the schedule for 2010 and we've been told that shark issues - including more protections for Hammerheads, Tiger and Bull Sharks, and mandated use of circle hooks - are a top priority.
Thanks to all who made the effort to show up at the Lemon Shark Workshops and to all of you who signed the Lemon Shark petition. Great job, thank you!