The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a groundbreaking shark conservation rule today that prohibits the recreational and commercial harvest, possession and landing of tiger and hammerhead sharks in state waters (up to 3 miles off the Atlantic coast and up to 9 miles off the Gulf coast). Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, applauded the new regulation to protect vulnerable tiger and hammerhead shark populations in Florida’s waters, which provide essential habitat for the species’ throughout their lifespan, including nursery grounds for their pups.
“The Commission should be commended for implementing such groundbreaking shark protections,” said Rebecca Greenberg, marine scientist at Oceana. ”This new rule will not only benefit tiger and hammerhead sharks, but also the health of Florida’s marine environment. While some shark species found in Florida’s waters still need protection, we are pleased to see the state making positive changes to these shark fisheries.”
Tiger sharks have declined drastically in recent decades. One study found that tiger sharks in the Atlantic waters of the United States have declined by up to 97 percent. The three species of hammerhead sharks protected by this regulation (smooth, great and scalloped) are subject to intensive fishing pressure because their large fins are highly valued on the international shark fin market. A recent assessment of hammerhead sharks in the northwest Atlantic revealed a decline of approximately 70 percent since the early 1980s. The new restrictions will still allow recreational fishing of the species as long as the sharks are caught and released.
“The federal government should make today’s new rule a consistent policy in all U.S. waters,” said Greenberg. “Banning the harvest, possession and landing of at-risk shark species is necessary for their populations to recover. Other coastal states should also be encouraged to implement similar restrictions in their waters to promote the conservation and recovery of shark populations in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.”
Each year, tens of millions of sharks worldwide are killed for shark fin soup.