TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) moved Nov. 16 to prohibit the harvest of tiger sharks and three species of hammerheads from state waters in an effort to further protect these top predators that rely on Florida waters to survive.
The action was taken during the first day of the Commission's two-day meeting in Key Largo.
"Sometimes the appropriate measures of conservation are the problems we avoid, not the problems we have to fix," said Commissioner Brian Yablonski.
The new measures, which also prohibit the possession, sale and exchange of tiger sharks and great, scalloped and smooth hammerhead sharks harvested from state waters, will go into effect Jan. 1, 2012. These sharks can still be caught and released in state waters and can be taken in adjacent federal waters.
The change got its start in 2010, after concerned citizens, shark researchers and shark anglers expressed their desires to the Commission to see increased protections for sharks.
Florida waters offer essential habitat for young sharks, which is important for species such as the slow-to-reproduce tiger shark, which takes about 15 years to reach maturity.
Sharks have been strictly regulated in Florida since 1992, with a one-shark-per-person, two-sharks-per-vessel daily bag limit for all recreational and commercial harvesters and a ban on shark finning. Roughly two-dozen overfished, vulnerable or rare shark species are catch-and-release only in Florida waters.
The FWC is also working on an educational campaign highlighting fishing and handling techniques that increase the survival rate of sharks that are caught and released while ensuring the safety of the anglers targeting them.
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