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Shark Fishing Could get an Overhaul from FWC

The proposed changes would ban chumming for sharks from public beaches, require circle hooks for some shark species and add great hammerhead and tiger shark to the banned fishing list.

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission recently has been considering some changes to shark fishing, including a proposal to add tiger sharks and great hammerheads to the banned fishing list.

The FWC, which met for public workshops in June, is debating whether it should also ban chumming from the shore, or within 100 feet from public beaches, as well as a requirement of non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks with the use of natural baits when catching sharks that do not have a minimum length requirement.

The FWC’s Division of Marine Fisheries Management will consider various data, as well as the public comments, and come up with recommendation for the commission at a September meeting.

A majority of charter boat captains and recreational anglers reportedly were against each proposal. Most anglers who have shark fished from beaches will attest chumming for sharks from beaches is rare and mostly ineffective. A ban on fishing for hammerheads or tiger sharks could further damage a charter fishing industry already battered by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, high gas prices and ever-increasing fish regulations.

Sharks, an apex predator, play a crucial role in balancing the world's oceans and providing its oxygen supply.

This is just one of the reasons various animal rights organizations, such as the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, would like to see chumming for sharks from beaches — and shark fishing from beaches in general — banned.

Don Anthony, communications director of the Fort Lauderdale-based organization, said there are several reasons to ban chumming for sharks from beaches.

“There’s no reason to kill sharks,” he said, “if there’s hundreds of thousands of sharks in the ocean and we’re killing one or two, we’re not making the beaches any safer for surfers, children or families. Usually people who kill sharks do that so they have a nice wall mount.”

Commissioners from Anna Maria, located on Anna Maria Island — five miles west of Bradenton — are considering a ban on shark chumming from beaches. Aaron Podey, of the FWC Division of Marine Fisheries, said Delray Beach banned chumming on its beaches for sharks last year.

Sharks are a relatively popular target of sport fishermen. Some anglers like to target them from piers as well, butterflying a large bait and sometimes waiting hours for an epic battle. Many charter captains find that anglers from out of state, as well as children, are particularly eager to boat a shark.

“They’ve never caught one before,” said Sarasota Capt. Jonnie Walker said. “It’s the whole mystique.”

The mystique, perhaps, comes from the Jaws movie series that portrays sharks as human-killers.

“And they’re not,” Anthony said. “They rarely go after humans.”

Anthony said chumming for sharks puts blood in the water and attracts sharks to places where people are swimming.

“It would be great if each city banned this, or even better a statewide ban,” Anthony said.

Podey said there is little data about shark attacks and the use of chumming for sharks from beaches.

“A lot of the captains (at the June workshop) said that if people try chumming they find it doesn’t work,” Podey said. “So it doesn’t happen very often.”

The FWC requires protected sharks such as the tiger, bull or hammerhead to be a minimum of 54 inches in total length to be harvested.

Any changes would be adopted in January of 2012.

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