Thursday, February 09, 2012

About that Hammerhead in Florida!

Is this illegal?

From the testimony.

...from there it was 100 yards away, I still thought it was a bull shark but then it surfaced and all I saw was a yellowish color so I thought it was a lemon... it surfaced once more and I thought it was a bull. It wasn't until it was 50 yards in the giant sickle fin verified what it was... (note: it was a Great Hammerhead)
We had it beached within an hour of hooking it.
The fish weighed too much her girth was huge. Just the 2 of us wasn't enough to get it out of the water.
...spent the next hour walking back and forth with HER reviving her did about 10 laps along the beach, we ran into 3 or 4 rays in the process and it came close to biting me when it swung around a few times. But it swam off slow and steady and I was satisfied with the release.

From Florida's Rule Chapter: 68B-44

68B-44.008 Prohibited Species; Prohibition of Harvest, Landing, and Sale (excerpt)
  • (1) No person shall harvest, possess, land, purchase, sell, or exchange any or any part of these species
    (k) Great hammerhead – Sphyrna mokarran.
68B-44.002 Definitions (excerpt).
  • (3) “Harvest” means the catching or taking of a marine organism by any means whatsoever, followed by a reduction of such organism to possession. Marine organisms that are caught but immediately returned to the water free, alive, and unharmed are not harvested.
  • (5) “Land,” when used in connection with the harvest of marine organisms, means the physical act of bringing the harvested organism ashore.
Now slasherx4 has a problem.
Two months ago, what he did would have been called best practice catch and release, this after taking a set of measurements which the land-based Shark anglers have introduced in lieu of weight records - not nice but certainly better than killing the Shark.

But now, things have obviously changed - or maybe not?
As of this year, Great Hammerheads are protected, may not be landed and must be released immediately. But what does that mean in this, and in many similar cases that will present themselves especially to the shore fishermen?
  • slasherx4 did manage to beach the Hammerhead but was unable to get it out of the water which would have undoubtedly qualified as landing. So where is the legal distinction here: must the Shark be sitting on the dry for it to be landed, or is it to be considered landed once it cannot anymore float vertically but is laying on the substrate as in the picture at the top, or what?

  • and what does immediately mean: immediately when hooked; immediately once identified as a prohibited species; or maybe otherwise?
    Certainly not the former as bait is not selective and there remain quite a few Sharks that are still legal to catch, thus mandating a positive ID; probably the latter - but then again, is that really always the best interpretation?
    Would it not be a better interpretation of the law that aims at protecting those species and requires them to be released unharmed if the Sharks were released without hooks or at least, with a minimum of line attached? If fishing from a boat, that would be relatively easy as one could stop fighting and drive to the animal in order to cut it loose.
    In the case of land based Shark fishing which I like even less because the animals must be completely subdued and dragged in, cutting the line as soon as the Shark is being identified is probably the least invasive procedure. With that in mind, slasherx4 should have cut the line when the Shark was still 50 yards from shore, thus probably giving it a better chance of survival despite of condemning it to drag along 50 or more yards of line.
Detail detail!
Looks like the authorities would be well advised to issue some clarifications here - and depending on the results, I fear that the shore based anglers may have to completely abandon their record-keeping as any beaching and immobilizing of those prohibited species will hopefully be declared to be illegal.
Which begs the question, how have the Lemons etc that have been prohibited for longer been handled so far.

But until then, I would have to totally concur with Chuck's view.

So a surf fisherman caught a large, endangered, legally protected shark but also followed the best release practices he was aware of and showed some respect for the animal.
This isn't Mark the Shark we're dealing with, it's someone who seems to rather like the fish he's angling, and therefore not a big part of the problem with hammerhead conservation. This particular fisherman likely made an honest mistake and, while the violation of the law certainly needs to be addressed, I hope they don't come down too hard on someone who could be helpful to the cause of shark conservation if approached neutrally.

PS once again, excellent post by David with many more details and an interesting comments thread here.

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