A recent study found that illegal shark fishing happens a lot in Florida.
Marine conservation biologist David Shiffman and his colleagues conducted the study. They analyzed more than a thousand public posts on South Florida Shark Club.
The group says that they found hundreds of examples of anglers posting about illegal shark fishing. This includes bringing in shark species that are illegal to land under state law, including hammerhead, tiger and lemon sharks.
The study was published in the Aug. 15 edition of Fisheries Research.
“It’s baffling to me how many cases of just blatantly illegal fishing activity are posted online in what is essentially a public forum,” Shiffman says.
South Florida Shark Club is an online forum popular with recreational, land-based (shore and pier) shark anglers.
And therein lies part of the problem.
Florida shark fishing regulations are in effect only in state waters. The study suggests that land-based anglers don’t have the means to get on a boat and get out of state waters to take the sharks legally.
In addition, the shore anglers feel under attack from “uniformed beach goers scared tourists, and local government officials quick to try and abolish our sport in favor of rich beachside homeowners,” says William Fundora, the administrator of the South Florida Shark Club.
Many land-based shark anglers don’t believe their actions come anywhere near the impact that commercial fishermen have. Still, the posts show they care about the species.
While some of the posts of illegal shark fishing found in the study didn’t care about regulations, many do. And many are concerned about overfishing and protection of sharks.
“It’s [about] breaking some of the bubbles between groups that care about these issues,” says Catherine Macdonald, co-author of the study. “[The research] gave us a unique window into what they think and feel, and that helps open the door to understanding each other better.”