Commissioners vote down proposed shark fishing rule

UPDATE: Tuesday, 11:01 a.m.

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Shark anglers will not be forced to move down the beach if they get too close to sunbathers or swimmers.

Commissioners voted 3-2 to quash a proposed ordinance that would have given law enforcement the authority to get anglers targeting sharks to move away from other beach users.

“I’m disappointed,” Carlton Condiminium respresentative Doug Distl said after the vote. “I don’t understand.” Distl had led the charge to ban shark fishing on county beaches, asking commissioners to support new rules that would have prohibited the use of blood bait and chum.

Commissioners Bob Solari, Wesley Davis and Gary Wheeler voted against the proposed new rules, saying that the ordinance was too restrictive and it is a matter for the state legislature to decide.

Indian River County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Penny Chandler spoke before the commission, expressing the Chamber’s support for an ordinance that would prohibit blood baiting and chumming.

“While the Chamber Board of Directors supports the visitor industry and sport fishing, it is their opinion that it is inappropriate to chum or bloodbait from the shoreline to attract sharks,” Chandler said, reading from a prepared statement. “The Board believes these inappropriate actions put people who visit our beaches at risk.”

Chandler said that the Chamber’s board would encourage local governments write “comprehensive ordinances that provide for responsible shoreline fishing with no harassment” along with “language that provides for the lawful removal from the beaches of those fishermen who take irresponsible actions … which places our beach visitors at risk.”

Wheeler said from the beginning the only ordinance he would have supported would have been one that would allow authorities to ask shark anglers move down beach – that’s it.

When the ordinance went farther to specify 500 yards and limit where shark fishing could happen, Wheeler said he could not support it.

“I think this is an over reaction,” Wheeler said.

Other governments, including Vero Beach and Indian River Shores, are considering adopting their own rules pertaining to shark fishing.

The ordinance granting law enforcement and lifeguards the authority to ask people who are fishing for sharks would have been a compromise between an all-out ban on shark fishing in the county and not making any changes to current policies.

Already, the county has a prohibition for any type of fishing along the county’s guarded beaches.

This article will be updated.

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