On December 10th, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved new measures aimed at protecting several distressed shark populations in Florida state waters. Beginning in mid-January 2010, the harvesting of sandbar, silky and Caribbean sharpnose sharks is prohibited within state waters. These species are either currently being overfished or are in danger of being overfished.
In addition, the FWC implemented several other protective measures, including 1) the prohibition against the removal of shark heads and tails at sea, 2) a rule allowing for only hook-and-line gear to harvest sharks and 3) the establishment of a minimum fork length on several shark species.
Another encouraging development at the Dec. 10th meeting was the proposal of a rule that would prohibit both recreational and commercial harvest of lemon sharks from state waters. Lemon sharks are especially vulnerable to overfishing, so conservationists – including representatives of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation – have been lobbying the FWC for some time to adopt more aggressive protective measures for lemons. The FWC will hold one more public meeting on this proposal before putting it to a final vote.
All in all, the Dec 10th meeting of the FWC was a great day for shark conservation efforts in the state of Florida. Many thanks to the FWC for taking a leadership role in the protection of our marine ecosystems!
For more information about the new rules, and to view the presentations on shark management and lemon sharks that were used at the meeting, see the official FWC press release published on the FWC web site.