February 21st, 2019
JUST IN: Anglers hoping to hook a shark from a Florida beach will face increased scrutiny and need a special license after the state’s first shore-based shark fishing rules were approved Wednesday.
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission voted unanimously to give the state better oversight of the generations-old sport in an effort to respond to concerns from beach goers and conservationists.
Beginning July 1, shark fishermen casting a line from shore will be required to get a free shark-fishing license, view an online educational course and ensure that prohibited species, such as the great hammerhead, remain entirely in the water with their gills covered during release.
Jenna Knobbe, a University of Florida student who has worked to enhance shark-fishing rules, said the death of a 400-pound tiger shark that washed up on Juno Beach in 2017 with a hook in its mouth was the impetus for the current push.
“The motivation has come from ordinary folks and scientists who are fed up with unethical angling practices,” she told commissioners. “We truly hope there will be education, better choices made and a cultural shift in (the shark fishing) community and not simply a move underground to continue business as usual.”
Commission members, who meet again in Gainesville on Thursday, also approved a ban on taking tropical fish and other marine life from around Phil Foster Park in Riviera Beach and the Blue Heron Bridge — a world-renowned dive site where common aquarium owners to commercial businesses have collected specimens for years.
Supporters of the measure say taking fish not only hinders the habitat but damages the popular tourist attraction. The Palm Beach County Commission agreed and asked the FWC this past summer to implement the ban.
The ban on taking tropical fish will go into effect April 1 and covers 46 acres around Phil Foster Park. The issue gained heightened attention in October when a Texas-based aquarium took 60 organisms from under the bridge, a number FWC characterized as “unexpectedly high.”
Source: Palm Beach Post