A shark hunting tournament has been organized by local fishermen in Jupiter, Florida, sparking anger and protests from wildlife activists.
Angler Corey Hexter posted a flyer on social media for the event, which is due to take place on July 9, 2022. Participants are asked to pay $100 per boat and will apparently receive cash prizes for the three heaviest sharks captured. The tournament is being hosted by WarBird Tournaments LLC, according to a petition calling for its cancellation.
“Finally we can do something about this issue,” Hexter said in the post’s caption. “NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] and other marine biologists on hand to study and take reports on the shark problem.”
Local wildlife activists and concerned members of the public reacted angrily in the comments.
“Please don’t do this,” read one comment, with another saying, “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. Sharks LIVE in the OCEAN! They have the right to be there. You don’t.”
State regulations state that harvestable sharks are limited to one caught per person and two per boat, but many fear participants will not adhere to those limits. A petition has been set up by OneProtest, an advocacy organization, to protest against the tournament, and has over 110,000 signatures at the time of writing.
Rayna O’Nan, a local underwater photographer for Ocean Rays Photography, told WPTV: “We are afraid of the damage to the ecosystem from this tournament. Sharks are extremely important. They are apex predators that control populations from top to bottom.”
Other divers are also worried about the effects this tournament will have on the local ecosystem.
“It’s primarily a money-making scheme, similar to the ‘legal’ trophy hunts in Africa,” said Raven Lynette, a diver and shark advocate from California. Newsweek. “The people who pay for these permits are mostly anglers who don’t know the importance of sharks or who just think sharks are the enemy competing with their catch. They’re not interested in ‘research’. None No observer is required for these tournaments, allowing anglers to easily kill and sink protected species, and there is NO reason to kill sharks, regardless of their protected status (or not). On the whole, they are rapidly declining.
Jason, the tournament organizer, said there was nothing wrong with the tournament and that it would prevent local sharks from eating the fishermen’s catch.
“We can’t bring anything to the boat now without it being taken by a shark,” he told WPTV. “It’s not even going to reduce the actual population that exists. We’re only targeting bull shark species for scale.”
Even though participants only harvest bulldog sharks, these sharks are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and their populations are declining. Overall, 100 million sharks of all species are killed each year by major fishing nations, contributing in part to the observed population decline of more than 70% over the past 50 years, according to Greenpeace.
Newsweek has contacted NOAA to comment on the claim that a NOAA representative will be on hand at the tournament.
NOAA spokeswoman Katie Wegner said Newsweek: “NOAA Fisheries does not organize or sponsor any fishing tournaments for highly migratory species, including sharks. Tournament organizers are aware of federal shark regulations for each vessel. All participants must follow the rules of the tournament, as well as all state and federal regulations. Vessel owners and operators who fail to comply with state and federal regulations may be subject to enforcement action. NOAA Fisheries manages all of these species to end overfishing and rebuild populations. This is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the foundation of all state fisheries regulations.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said it was aware of the tournament but was not in its power to shut it down.
FWC spokesperson Emily Abellera said Newsweek“We are aware of an announced Shark Fishing Tournament scheduled for Southeast Florida on July 9. Fishing tournaments in Florida do not require FWC approval; however, they must comply with state and federal fishing regulations. Because fishing tournaments do not require permission from the FWC, the FWC does not have the authority to “cancel” fishing tournaments. The FWC does not sponsor such events but may communicate with tournament officials regarding marine fishing regulations, best practices, or opportunities to obtain scientific data or samples through tournament activities.”
They say they will send FWC officers to ensure anglers catch the correct number of the correct species.
“FWC law enforcement is also aware of the tournament and will continue to patrol and protect state waters and resources. Officers will incorporate these activities into their daily patrol plan and as usual , will take appropriate action to remedy any violations discovered,” Abellera said.