MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Florida. – World leaders recently agreed to extend protections to more than two-thirds of the world’s shark population, whose numbers are rapidly declining due to the insatiable demand for shark fins.
Closer to home, Florida anglers are complaining that there are too many sharks, and NOAA is now re-evaluating its limits on the number of sharks that can be legally caught and killed.
Local 10 was on the water off Palm Beach as a team of CRF marine scientists carefully brought in an 8ft adult female bull shark. The 300-pound shark was placed in an unconscious tonic stillness as biologists gathered important data on her that could prove vital for the conservation of her species and all sharks.
“We really need to know how many sharks are here because in general shark populations are down,” said CRF marine biologist Mike Heithaus. “And while we’re doing better than most places here in the United States, we can still do better.”
An acoustic transmitter has been inserted into the shark so that they can now follow its every move.
“So all we’re trying to do is understand what areas these animals are actually using and how that type of area use changes over time,” said CRF marine biologist Yannis Papastamatiou. “So how does it change day and night? How does it change with the seasons? »
The urgent research comes at a time when extinction due to overfishing threatens 37% of all sharks and 70% of species specifically traded for their fins.
On average, the world kills 100 million sharks a year.
CRF shark researcher Diego Cardenosa zoomed in with Local 10 News from Hong Kong, where he continues his groundbreaking work developing protocols and tools to help law enforcement around the world crack down on illegal trade of shark fins.
“The status of shark populations around the world is definitely something to be concerned about,” Cardenosa said. “We have visual identification guides, we have DNA import toolkits that can be used to very easily identify species in fins.”
Cardenosa’s work is even more crucial now that CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, voted last week to increase protection for 54 species of requiem sharks and sharks. hammers targeted for their fins.
“So it’s like an open door for more regulations and more protections for these specific species around the world,” he said.
Locally in South Florida, the fight for conservation continues due to pressure from commercial and recreational fishermen who claim Florida’s Atlantic coast has become far too sharky.
NOAA is currently reassessing the number of sharks that commercial fishermen are allowed to harvest and is considering raising the retention limit from 45 large coastal sharks per vessel per trip to 55 sharks, excluding gray sharks, listed as vulnerable. .
According to Lauren Gaches of NOAA Fisheries Public Affairs, “NOAA Fisheries is currently developing the final rule to address quotas and retention limits and anticipates that the final rule will be posted to the Federal Register in the coming weeks.”
Recreational anglers also want the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to increase its bag limit, which is currently one shark per person per day.
“We’re starting to get to the point where there’s an imbalance,” said shark fishing tournament organizer Robert Fly Navarro.
They claim that the protections on the sharks caused a boom, which now prevents them from landing their catches because the sharks are stealing them.
“You lose 50% of what we hooked sharks,” Navarro said.
Scientists, however, push back.
“I wouldn’t call it a shark boom,” Papastamatiou said. “Remember, these were populations that were historically overexploited. So what you’re seeing is the recovery, potentially, of populations.
Scientists agree that there has recently been an increase in human interaction with sharks, but also indicate that there are more people and more boats in the water.
Since the pandemic, Florida now has a record of more than one million registered boats.
“Just because the sharks are taking more fish off the hooks doesn’t mean there are more sharks here,” Heithaus said.
It means that they have become intelligent.
“They’re catching a fish that’s already struggling, they don’t have to do the hunting part,” said FIU PhD student Candace Fields. “And they can just take a bite and pretty much get a free meal.”
The research team hopes this work will lead them to find ways to make sharks and fishermen co-exist. After all, a healthy ocean needs a healthy shark population.
“We have a large number of sharks,” Papastamatiou said. “Few places can say that and it’s a sign of a good healthy ecosystem. So it’s something to be proud of, it doesn’t mean the job is done, but it’s a good sign.
There is still a small problem with these CITES protections for sharks that world leaders have just approved.
Thursday is the CITES plenary session and Japan and Canada have been lobbying other countries to change those protections. A final vote will take place.
Federal Register: Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Year 2023
Commercial Atlantic shark fishery in 2023: quotas, retention limits and opening date
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