The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is developing new regulations when it comes to shore-based shark fishing and they want your input.
The FWC is hosting a series of 10 public workshops across the state where citizens can share their thoughts and ideas on the future management of sharks. One will take place at 6 p.m. on Aug. 27 at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place.
The move was made in response to public concern and comments about current shark fishing regulations – or lack thereof. Among the concerned is Melbourne Beach Mayor Jim Simmons. “It’s common sense; responsible shark fishers know not to fish among swimmers,” Simmons said in an address to the FWC at an April meeting. “The problem is not education; the problem is with an irresponsible minority who refuse to respect the right of others to use our beaches safely.”
He insists it’s not the responsible shark fisherman causing an issue, like his son-in-law, who takes part occasionally in the sport; instead, it’s the irresponsible anglers who chum the waters with blood without regard for who is nearby.
“I have witnessed shark fishers come and set their blood baits among the already present swimmers and surfers,” Simmons said. “Since 2014, FWC has conducted these workshops, but nothing has changed; the irresponsible still behave irresponsibly and dangerously.”
While not advocating a ban on shark fishing, Simmons doesn’t think the FWC’s suggestion to impose additional educational requirements is enough. Instead, he proposes reasonable rules that include a prohibition on chumming/blood baiting in the ocean within 600 yards of shore, and designated shark fishing areas, marked with signs.
Short of that, he believes municipalities should be given the right to create their own regulations within their community.
Indialantic Mayor Dave Berkman shares many of Simmons’ concerns. The town council there has taken steps to create a shark fishing ordinance and Berkman plans to attend the upcoming FWC workshop in Melbourne.
Derek Ziade of Indialantic started shark fishing by accident. “I used to fish off the beach for whatever would bite, but one day as I was pulling in a blue fish, a shark took hold of it in about 2 feet of water and ran with it, then came back seconds later to try and get the rest of it,” Ziade said. “I loved the thrill, so I started going out at least four times a week hail, rain or snow.”
Since that time, Ziade says he has caught many sharks, some up to 7 feet long, but always released them.
“I always made sure swimmers were far away from me only due to the danger of the shark jumping and spinning, never to bite,” Ziade said.
“I have not shark fished in about three years, but I feel some people think it’s OK to kill sharks. I don’t believe in that at all.”
There have been 144 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks – including one fatality – in Brevard County since 1882, according to the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida.
Article by: Jennifer Torres, correspondent