Feds to Take Blacktip Catches from Anglers, Give to Commercials
ⓦ Blacktip shark populations in the Gulf of Mexico are healthy, according to most recent assessment.
ⓦ In Florida, there are 135 commercial shark permit holders, and over 1 million recreational saltwater license holders.
ⓦ Florida recreational anglers kept an average of 76 metric tons of blacktip per year, between 2001-2012. Comes out to about 23,000 blacktip per year.
ⓦ For the Gulf of Mexico, NMFS proposes allowing commercial shark fishermen to keep 256.7 metric tons of blacktip in 2013. (No specific figure for Atlantic blacktip, included in proposed aggregate shark quota of 168.3 metric tons—but lots of that will be blacktip.)
ⓦ Blacktip sharks do not exceed 96 inches (8 feet).
ⓦ Therefore, a proposed 96-inch recreational minimum [see Trouble With Dusky Sharks, below] will eliminate those 23,000 recreational blacktip catches. . .
ⓦ. . . While allowing commercial permit-holders to keep THREE to SIX times as many blacktips as all of Florida’s anglers had been landing in recent years.
ⓦ In the end: Recreational angler loses, while commercial fleet reaps the rewards.
ⓦ What rewards? Projected blacktip shark commercial value in Gulf of Mexico for 2013: $650,000.
ⓦ Some other commercial fishery values: Florida spiny lobster: $37.2 million (2011). Crab, nationwide: $650 million (2011). U.S. farm-raised catfish: $462 million (2005).
Trouble With Dusky Sharks
ⓦ Dusky shark populations in western north Atlantic waters said to be a fraction of historical levels—15 to 20 percent.
ⓦ Large dusky shark fins among most desirable on Asian sharkfin
market, for making soup.
ⓦ Length at which dusky reaches sexual maturity: 96 inches. They can grow as big as 12 feet.
ⓦ In the commercial fishery, three-fourths of all Large Coastal Sharks are captured on bottom longline gear. High seas pelagic (surface) longlines also hook many dusky shark.
ⓦ Dusky shark protected since 2000, but many die after being hooked on commercial gear: 85 percent of juvenile dusky sharks dead when hauled up on bottom longline.
ⓦ To help dusky shark recover, NOAA recommends two-thirds cut in “interactions.”
ⓦ Is recreational fishing part of the problem? Extrapolated landings for the rarely hooked dusky seem absurdly unreliable. In 2008, NOAA estimated recreational anglers in U.S. Atlantic and Gulf waters had an unusually high number of “interactions” with dusky; same year was a low-point for longliners, who have detailed logbooks. Next year saw a fivefold drop in recreational interactions, while commercial gear interactions rose.
ⓦ Our suspicion is the rec figures are statistical anomalies, reflecting
multipliers applied to tiny data sets—hence the huge fluctuations. (Snapshots of rec “harvest” show deranged figures:
From Florida, we see 1,007 dusky sharks landed in 2001—two years into a closure!—no report for 2002, ZERO dusky in 2003; NOAA admits these figures are “very imprecise.”)
ⓦ End result: Recreational angler faces 96-inch general shark minimum, to offset speculative, unfounded accusation of landing-by-misidentification. Commercial longline fleet (a few dozen
vessels) to see more time-area closures, but retains right to deploy non-selective, deadly, unattended lines of hooks. Plus, they get to keep blacktip sharks [see Taking Catches from Anglers,
above] with no minimum size!