Tiger sharks and smooth, great, and scalloped hammerhead sharks will be protected by law from fishing, possession, and sales in Florida state waters from now on. Each of the four sharks declined by fifty percent or more mainly due to overfishing, so enacting legal protection was necessary. Additionally, they use Florida waters for reproduction so fishing for them interferes with their ability to regenerate.
“We are one of the first states to have a prohibition on commercial and recreational shark harvest in state waters. This is an important step in protecting these species,” said a spokesperson from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. (Source: News-Press.com)
An estimated 800,000 sharks were killed by recreational fisherman in Gulf coast and Atlantic waters between 2004 to 2008.
While the prevailing public perception of sharks is that they are dangerous and need to be eliminated or kept at very low levels, the reverse is actually true. The number of sharks attacks on humans worldwide is extremely small and as the top predators in their habitats, if they are removed the whole ecosystem can become unbalanced.
The fishing industry depends on balanced marine ecosystems to stay in business. For example, “A study in North Carolina showed that the loss of the great sharks increased the ray populations below them. As a result, the hungry rays ate all the bay scallops, forcing the fishery to close. Without scallops to eat, the rays have moved on to other bivalves.
The decline of the quahog, a key ingredient in clam chowder, is forcing many restaurants to remove this American classic from their menus. The disappearance of scallops and clams demonstrates that the elimination of sharks can cause harm to the economy in addition to ecosystems.” (Source: Oceana.org)
Another study in the Bahamas showed one reef shark can be worth $250,000 due to the ecotourism associated with it. To a fisherman the same shark might be worth just $50.
Image Credit: Josh Hallett/Wiki Commons