If you fish for sharks, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service is planning to upset your boat next year. According to Draft Amendment 5 to the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan for Management of Atlantic Sharks, released Nov. 15, the current intention is to impose a 96-inch minimum size on all sharks except bonnetheads and Atlantic sharpnose. Blacktip sharks — which rarely if ever reach 8 feet — would be illegal to harvest, despite the fact that the amendment also notes, “NMFS has determined that the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark stock is not overfished and not experiencing overfishing. These results indicate the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark stock can sustain current fishing levels.”
Why would regulators do this to us? Well, there are two sharks species that are in a bit of trouble right now. Dusky sharks, which appear to be in legitimate danger of going extinct, are the main concern, but the stock assessment of blacknose sharks was rejected and NMFS has decided to err on the side of caution. It would seem like a no-brainer to ban harvest of duskies and maybe put a temporary ban on blacknoses, right? One tiny problem: Dusky sharks have been a prohibited species since 1999, and 13 years of no harvest hasn’t had the desired effect. The line of thinking seems to be that if their carefully crafted recovery plan isn’t working, it must be you and me out there killing all those dusky sharks.
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