The Beacon: Rebecca Greenberg's blog

Breaking: FL Protects Tiger and Hammerhead Sharks

hammerhead shark

Hammerhead shark. [Image via Wikimedia Commons]

I’m sitting in the meeting of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission down in Key Largo, and I have great news: A decision has just been made to protect tiger sharks and three species of hammerhead sharks in state waters.

The new rules go into effect January 1, 2012 and prohibit the commercial harvest, possession and landing of tiger and hammerhead sharks (scalloped, smooth and great hammerheads) in state waters -- that’s three miles off the Atlantic coast and nine miles off the Gulf coast. Recreational fisheries for these species could continue, as long as they’re “catch and release."

We really like this new regulation. Tiger sharks have declined drastically in recent decades -- up to 97% in US Atlantic waters. And these three species of hammerhead sharks have declined about 70% in northwest Atlantic waters. Sharks are often caught for their fins that eventually end up in shark fin soup.

There are some other shark species that still would benefit from this same protection in Florida’s waters, but for now we’re pleased to see the state make positive changes to these shark fisheries. Florida’s waters provide essential habitat for these species; their babies (called pups) use these waters as nursery grounds.

Protected sharks = more shark babies = healthier oceans. Thanks to everyone who helped with this huge victory for sharks!


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55 Baby Hammerheads Killed for Sport

© Mote Marine

Yesterday’s esquire.com mako shark recipes were pretty outrageous, but it reminded us of another shocking shark story that's worth remembering this shark week. A few years ago, a 1,280-pound pregnant hammerhead shark was killed in Florida in the name of “sport fishing”, with 55 mini-hammerheads still in her womb.

This record-breaking hammerhead was caught off Boca Grande, FL, after struggling for hours. Female sharks are often caught as record-breakers in sport fisheries; they are often so heavy precisely because they are pregnant! This not-so-little lady was 40 or 50 years old and due to give birth any day, with the largest number of shark pups scientists have ever seen.

Killing sharks to win a spot in a record book is unfortunate, as these slow growers can’t sustain their populations against high fishing pressure. We like catch and release models much better, like the Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge in Florida, in which scientists tag all sharks caught and fishermen release them back into the water.  

In good news for these sharks in Florida, a proposal is moving forward to prohibit killing hammerheads (and tiger sharks) in state waters. Staff of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will present this recommendation to the state wildlife commission next month.

Kudos to our devoted Florida Wavemakers who helped make this key step a reality! We’ll keep you posted on the outcomes; with a victory, any record-breaking pregnant sharks and her babies will remain in the oceans where they belong, and not on a lab table.

Take action to protect hammmerheads if you haven't already!


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Shark Steaks for Dinner? No Thanks.

mako shark

Mako shark. [Image via Wikimedia Commons]

It’s Shark Week over at Discovery Channel, and that means everyone’s talking about them: sharks at the beach, sharks hunting seals, scuba diving with sharks, but…eating sharks?

We found a piece at esquire.com called A Man's Guide to Eating Shark, for Shark Week or Otherwise which explains, after acknowledging the conservation concerns for the species, a few ways to cook a mako shark right at home for dinner.

We like eating seafood, as long as it is sustainable. And shortfin mako is not; it’s listed as vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN Red List (as is its cousin the longfin mako). The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determined that overfishing of shortfin mako sharks is occurring in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Recently, NMFS launched a program to encourage fishermen to release shortfin mako sharks alive back into the sea after being caught. This will help stop overfishing of the species and maintain a healthy population for the future. There is even an interactive online map and an Android app where fishermen can report their releases of shortfin makos back into the ocean.

As if being overfished wasn’t enough, sharks can also contain toxins like mercury in excess of the FDA’s recommended limits for moms and children. Certainly something to think about the next time someone recommends putting some shark on the barbie.

Do your part by telling the U.S. government to protect threatened sharks!


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