The city of Pinellas has banned shark fishing from its beaches. What then?

The city of Pinellas has banned shark fishing from its beaches.  What then?

The body of The pregnant, bloated tiger shark that Indian Shores Police Maj. Glen Smith saw on the beach wasn’t the first to come ashore. in His coastal community. But it is He said he hopes it’s the last.

On June 10, a female tiger shark – a protected species in Florida – was found dead on the beach near Barefoot Beach Resort, prompting… Indian Shores prohibits shark fishing within two and a half miles of shore.

Smith said he could see other government agencies in Pinellas County enacting their own ordinances if shark fishermen withdraw from Indian Shores and authorities find dead sharks in Their communities. Fish mortality data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shows that dead shark sightings are more common in the county’s most populated cities. But it’s the smaller beach towns of Pinellas that are leading the charge for a complete ban on wild shark fishing.

“I think if you found a bunch of dead sharks, St. Pete Beach — any of those municipalities, anywhere on the coast, or frankly, anywhere in the country — would start asking questions,” he said. “The same questions you asked.”

An autopsy of the 10-foot-long shark Smith saw showed it was pregnant with 40 pups. Smith said it was likely fished from the beach and left to die in the sand.

“It wasn’t good for me,” he said.

Smith went to Indian Shores Police Chief Richard Swan and asked him for permission to move forward with the shark fishing ban. Smith said he looked to other examples in Florida when drafting the policy and modeled the Indian Shores rule after a similar law in Delray Beach.

On September 13, the City Council unanimously passed a measure banning shark fishing from their beaches, which included a $500 fine for those caught breaking the law.

Smith said he saw comments online protesting the local law. In a post on the Tampa Bay Land Based Shark Fishing Facebook group, a member threatened legal action against the city.

“Nothing better than Indian beaches banning shark fishing with a fine of up to $500. Thanks to the idiots who scam,” another member’s post read.

Sharks hunt in low light, so the best time to catch them is often at dusk. Indian Shores police intensified their nightly patrols near the beach entrances to enforce the new rule.

Smith said his 14 officers are spread between Indian Shores and Redington Shores, which does not have its own police force. Smith said that shortly after the ban was passed in his city, he approached Redington Shores officials about implementing a shark fishing ban there as well. He said it’s common for a neighboring town to pass ordinances that Indian Shores has already adopted.

“It makes it easier for us to be consistent,” Smith said.

Redington Shores passed the first reading of its shark fishing ban at its Nov. 8 town meeting. If the law is passed again on December 13, the ban will take effect immediately.

The ordinance not only conserves the species, but also addresses public safety concerns, Redington Shores City Councilman Joe Licata said.

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Licata suspects This squeak from the beach — which became illegal on Florida beaches in 2020 — played a role in the death of a pregnant tiger shark. He said he was concerned that this might attract animals to beaches and put residents and tourists at risk.

“If you have a bunch of dead sharks in one or two places, constantly, it’s because they’ve been programmed to say, ‘Hey, there’s some food here,'” Licata said.

Since July 2020, when the Friendship Rule and other shark fishing regulations were passed, only one shark has washed up dead at Redington Shores, according to fish kill data.

“All it takes is this,” Licata said.

Licata said he hopes other Pinellas municipalities will move to adopt similar bans.

“Considering the number of people who go out swimming, I can’t believe something like this didn’t already exist,” he said.

Statewide rules have cracked down on shark fishing misconduct

It takes a tiger shark 13 years to reach reproductive age, and mature animals are killed for it, said David Schiffman, a marine biologist at Arizona State University. “Something that doesn’t make sense is sad.”

Wild fishing is especially difficult for sharks, Schiffman said.

“It makes the process of catch and release similar to catching and dumping a body,” he said.

Wooden piers, concrete seawalls, and sandy beaches are abrasive surfaces that can cause permanent damage to sharks when pulled from the ocean and dragged ashore. This can cause wounds that may become infected or damage the animals’ gills, Schiffman said.

In 2019, Schiffman worked with the Wildlife Commission, conservationists and fishing groups to create those stricter rules for hunting wild sharks. In addition to prohibiting certification, the policy restricts the type of hook used and requires sharks’ gills to be partially submerged at all times.

Since the law took effect in 2020, Schiffman said, he has seen fewer “awful, in-your-face violations.”

“Many of these hunters have been speaking out about not following the rules, and openly mocking scientists, conservationists and the EPA in social media posts,” he said. “We see a lot less than that.”

In Pinellas, most communities say shark deaths are not a problem on their beaches

There have been 96 reports of dead sharks found in Pinellas since the law changed, according to the Wildlife Commission.

Data showed that Indian beaches have witnessed 10 dead sharks on their beaches in the past three years. Clearwater Beach and Indian Rocks Beach lead the county in dead shark sightings, each receiving 18 reports since 2020.

but, Kelly Richmond, a spokeswoman for the Wildlife Commission, said because the agency’s data is based on community reports, it is not a complete list of dead sharks found across the state.

“The presence of a dead shark on the beach often prompts a call, because people are interested in informing scientific researchers, or simply want the dead shark away from the area where they are retrieving,” Richmond wrote in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. . “Reports of fish kills only come from locations where people are present, so if no one is there to see it, it will not be reported.”

She said Clearwater Marine Aquarium employees searching for turtle nests every day and the generally heavy traffic in Clearwater Beach may skew the numbers and explain why the number of dead sharks in that city is higher than in neighboring municipalities.

However, some officials around the province say the shark deaths were not a cause for concern On the beaches of their municipality.

“We haven’t had any problems like that,” he said. Rob Shaw, Clearwater Police Department spokesman.

Since 2020, Treasure Island has received seven reports of shark deaths, according to the Wildlife Commission. Jason Beisel, city spokesman Local officials he asked about the dead shark sightings aren’t worried either, he said.

Schiffman said he did not lobby the state to ban shark fishing completely when the law changed. He thought that would be “too strong.”

But in Areas where sharks continue to wash up on beaches seem like the obvious next step, he said.

“If someone says, ‘I’m not going to follow the speed limit,’ that’s not an argument against having a speed limit. That’s an argument against letting that person drive,” he said.

Schiffman said unsustainable commercial overfishing is to blame for dwindling shark populations. However, because some shark species are few in number, recreational fishing has now become a major conservation challenge.

“There are many ways to practice this hobby respectfully and in a way that does not cause any harm,” Schiffman said. “What you see with these shark fishermen — it’s usually not.”

Schiffman urged shark anglers to follow best practices, which include complying with state and local laws, minimizing “fight time” when fishing and cutting the line when the shark is under significant stress.

“It’s not a good idea for a shark to trail 50 yards behind for many reasons,” he said. “But this is much better than dragging him to shore, wrestling with him and then pulling the hook out of his mouth.”

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