New Florida Law Bans Killing of Some Sharks

Posted by Stephanie Ulmer, Guest Blogger on January 9, 2012

With the support of marine scientists, environmental groups, and the International Game Fish Association, which keeps track of all sport fishing records, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted in November to protect tiger sharks, smooth hammerheads, scalloped hammerheads, and great hammerheads. These shark species are in addition to the 23 sharks already protected by state law. The new law, which took effect on January 1st, will still allow for the “catch and release” of the sharks in state waters, but it makes their killing, possession, sale, or exchange a crime. The law will also not affect the killing or transport of sharks by most fishermen in federal waters.

The Miami Herald has reported that, “Shark experts and environmentalists applaud the [ban] and hope it clears the way for extending protections in both federal and international waters. Populations of all four species, according to FWC and federal fisheries biologists, have declined by more than half in recent decades, with studies suggesting smooth and scalloped hammerheads in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf down by as much as 98 percent and tigers reduced by at least 65 percent.”

Florida has been a continued leader in shark conservation, passing one of the first bans on shark finning, which has since been outlawed in U.S. waters. In addition, Florida’s other shark fishing laws have been considered some of the most stringent in the country. One can hope that other states will follow Florida’s lead. Conservation is needed now more than ever, as sharks play a vital role in regulating the ocean ecosystem. With the popularity of shark fin soup and the misperceptions of sharks as “man-eaters,” shark populations are being decimated all over the world, making extinction a real possibility. The need for their protection cannot be underestimated.