Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lemon Sharks Public Workshop Recap

Lemon Shark - Photo by: Wolfgang Leander

Tonight I attended the FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) public workshop with a focus on Lemon Sharks - particularly on the banning of harvesting this shark species.  Back in June 2009, the FWC was presented with information regarding the vulnerability and status of the Lemon Shark.  

In August, a proposal was submitted to the commission to prohibit the take of lemon sharks, finally in September, the commission directed staff to investigate the proposal and return to the commission in December with a recommendation.

Some interesting data as to why the Lemon Shark fishing ban should be in place (as per the FWC):

  • Additional pressure on lemon sharks due to recent changes in shark management
  • NOAA Fisheries Service study found lemon sharks to be the most vulnerable of all 33 large coastal species
  • Sexual maturity at 12-15 years of age and at lengths of around 90 inches or greater, 6 to 18 pups per litter...
  • Tagging study found at least 7.5% mortality of adult population in one season.
Below are some of my observations and notes of what various people had to say - among them dive operators, commercial fishermen, scientists, divers, non-profits, and shark lovers:
  • Lots of questions and doubts on the numbers of sharks killed by anglers (recreational) between 2000-2007 – average per year
  • How fast people lose focus – look at trend
  • Coral reefs are dying as is – taking out more apex predators will increase process.  Use history of commercial fishing and collapsed industries as examples
  • It is in fishermen’s best interest to protect species that they are harvesting
  • Commercial fishermen being punished for recreational harvest
  • FWC has long history of waiting / failing to protect endangered species
  • 4/6 lemon sharks a day (breeding size) – now he does not see that many in a season
  • Ban at least during spawning months
  • Wolves removed from the mountains – mountains die (good comparison)
  • Wolves reintroduced to Yellowstone and vegetation came back
  • We need our predators…
  • Various non-profits represented and support the ban
  • Information overload – too many numbers and studies to remember – all boils down to sharks being in trouble
  • People started to become very repetitive…too much reading...speak
  • Data is flaw…but you need to focus on the trend
  • The shark is a resource…I think it is a living animal
  • Doc speaks directly to commercial fishermen who earlier mentioned that there is no reliable data
  • There is data – and it has been collected over 30-40 years – empirical data
  • And that he is the one individual that loves lemons – only likes them now since one bit him ;)
  • Lemon is the most vulnerable for many reasons – not just ease to catch.  They follow a long lifecycle similar to whales and even humans in the sense of development.  Not sexually mature until there are at least 12 years old
  • Lemon sharks go up to 15 miles into fresh water rivers
  • Protect the breeders – there should be an upper limit
In just sitting there and listening to the various people speak I could not help and think - we are deciding on the fate of a species based on $$$.  Many people speaking for or against the banning of harvesting lemon sharks have an economic agenda be it to take divers to see the sharks or those that catch and sell the meat.  The shark is a resource and nothing more - I sure hope not?

And while I completely support the ban of harvesting the Lemon Shark and any other species for that matter, I do hope that whatever plan is set in motion, contemplates the commercial fisherman as well.


DaShark said...

Good post Felix, thanks for sharing!

Fingers crossed they will do the right thing and protect the Sharks!

And yes, the fishermen, too - it has 2b consensual or it just aint gonna work!

Shark Safe Network Team said...

Hi Felix -- Spoke with Aaron after the workshop and clarified the recreational numbers - they DID include released sharks. This is really significant, because the % released averages around 96%. Big difference! Was just going to email you @ this and saw that you had the blog up already. You're quick! Good to see you! And great blog, thanks!

Shark Safe Network Team said...

Also wanted to mention something about the economic arguments. The FWC is part of the Dept of Commerce, so realistically the economic argument has to be made. While the dive operators there certainly stand to lose if the sharks are wiped out, it doesn't mean that's their only - or even primary - motive in trying to protect these animals. It is sad, though, to hear everyone talking about them as simply a 'resource'. But if we want to save them, we have to demonstrate the value of a live shark! Thanks!

Felix Leander said...

Hi Shark Safe Network Team (Samantha?),

Thank you for the update and I agree with you 100% in reference to economic arguments. And I know that some of the operators / guides really love sharks ;).

Shark Safe Network Team said...

It's Mary! I forgot that this google address shows up as SSN team!