Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pregnant sharks killed in Florida - over 40 pups dead

Received a sad note from Neil Hammerschlag this morning about the death of a pregnant bull and hammerhead shark.  Both seem to have died as a result of irresponsible fishing.  As per Neil's post:

"I am sad to report that within the last 24 hours, 2 pregnant sharks were killed.
The first  shark that washed up on shore, was in the Florida Keys yesterday. It was a 9 ft pregnant bull shark with 12 dead pups that were ready to be born.

Dead 9 ft pregnant Bull shark washed up on beach as a result of beach fishing. Shark had two "J" hooks in it's gills (Click to enlarge)
12 dead bull shark pups (click to enlarge)
The second shark washed up this afternoon, was on Delray Beach. It was a 13 ft pregnant hammerhead shark with 35 dead pups that were ready to be born.
Dead 13 ft pregnant Hammerhead with J Hook (click to enlarge)
35 dead hammerhead pups (Click to enlarge)
Both sharks were entering nearshore waters to give birth when they were captured. Witnesses reported in both areas land-based shark fishing activities in the area the previous night.  Both sharks were found dead with “J” hooks;  one shark had double “J” hooks lodged in its gills.

Luckily, team members from the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program were able to respond and collect data, photos and samples.  So in less than 24 hrs, Florida lost 49 sharks (36 hammerheads & 13 bull sharks), of which 2 were reproductive females likely helping sustain the local nearshore population.
12 dead bull shark pups that were ready to be born (Click to enlarge)
It is sad to see such waste.

I am a strong supporter and promoter of responsible & sustainable catch & release fishing. However, I do not support fishing with destructive gear (J hooks) for threatened and pregnant species in areas and times of year where they congregate to give birth. This is just not responsible.

I think we need to consider at least the following regulations:

1) Only shark fishing with “Circle” hooks. This has already been instituted as part of Florida law for other fishes like groupers and snappers.
Circle hooks generally allow safe hooking of sharks in the side of the mouth, where they can be easily and quickly removed (this is compared to J hooks that sometimes cause gut or gill hooking which can be lethal).

2) Establishing protection for pregnant female sharks during the breeding season, especially threatened species like hammerhead and bulls.

3) Establishing standards and protocols for gear configurations and techniques for shark fishing that reduce fight, handling, and air exposure times, which will promote successful catch & release.

In addition, I think more research is needed to examine the effects of different types of catch & release fishing on post-release mortality to help better inform anglers on how to conduct sustainable catch & release fishing, which I support. I also believe more research identifying critical habitat for shark congregation, mating & pupping for conservation. Most importantly, we need to educate the public about threats facing sharks and how they can make a difference.

Most fishermen are responsible and ethical. The irresponsible minority reflects badly on everyone else. Responsible catch & release shark fishing is sustainable and many practice this. We just need to get everyone on board!
Brendal Davis & Mary O'Malley with dead hammerhead pups
Thank you to Curt & Kelli Slonim, Brendal Davis & Mary O’Malley for responding and being on the scene to collect data, take photos and educate the public!

Please provide your comments below and forward this to others!
Thank you for your time,
Neil Hammerschlag, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor,
Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science (RSMAS)
Leonard & Jayne Abess Center for Ecosystem Science & Policy

Director, RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program
University of Miami
4600 Rickenbacker Cswy, Miami, Florida, 33149

O: 305.421.4356    F: 305.421.4675   C: 305.951.6577"

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