Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Adopts New Regulations Protecting Sharks & Blue Heron Bridge Dive Site0
After nearly two years of effort and input from DEMA and the diving public, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) has adopted several new regulations that protect sharks in Florida waters and protect a world-renowned dive site in Palm Beach.
New Regulations for Shore-Based Shark Fishing Regulations
New shore-based shark fishing regulations adopted by the FWC on February 20 will require that all fishers, regardless of age, attend an online education program to educate about the importance of sharks and familiarize them with the new regulations. Fishers over 16 years old, including seniors, must also obtain a free, shore-based shark fishing permit, which is only available after completing the Commission-approved education program. The permit is also required if any fisher, while fishing from shore, is using a leader that is four feet long or more, and when the hook exceeds a specified size.
FWC regulations prohibit sharks from being landed on shore and to help ensure this is followed, shore fishers must now carry a device capable of cutting the line or hook. The shark must be cut free with as little remaining line and tackle as possible if the hook cannot be removed without raising the gills out of the water, or if the fisher would be at risk by removing the hook. This regulation helps reduce the incidence of sharks being removed completely from the water to photograph or measure the animal, which can impact the shark’s health.
While supporting these new regulations, DEMA and others commented in favor of prohibiting shore-based shark fishing within 100 yards of designated public bathing beaches. Even though this is already a rule with regard to spear fishing in Florida, the FWC did not adopt any swimmer-shore-based shark fishing distance requirement at this time. DEMA will continue to work adoption of a common-sense distance requirement.
The revised shore-based shark fishing rule language will be posted on the FWC website, myfwc.com, and new rules go into effect on July 1, 2019. DEMA’s comments to the FWC on shore-based shark fishing from April and December 2018, and February 2019, can be found here.
New Regulations Prohibit Collection of Aquarium-Sized Marine Life From the Blue Heron Bridge
DEMA has also been working with local Florida dive stores and citizen’s groups to prohibit further collection of aquarium-sized marine life from the Blue Heron Bridge shore dive site in Palm Beach. This dive site is well known by snorkelers, divers and photographers, and was recently rated one of Florida’s best shore dives by Sport Diver Magazine.
DEMA favors keeping this dive site accessible to all divers and snorkelers but asked the FWC to prohibit the taking of all marine life, creating a marine sanctuary. FWC did adopt regulations prohibiting the take of aquarium sized marine life while diving, but continues to allow hook and line fishing in the area. FWC’s new regulations can be found on their website, and new rules for the Blue Heron Bridge go into effect on April 1, 2019. DEMA’s comments on this important dive site can be found here.
DEMA appreciates the hard work of DEMA Members, citizen’s groups in Florida, as well as members of DEMA’s Public Policy Committee and Board of Directors for their support in these efforts. After two years of work, moving a government agency in this manner is a win for the diving industry!
DEMA’s Public Policy Committee will conduct Dive-In-Day at the Capitol in Tallahassee Florida on March 19 and Florida Based DEMA Members are invited to participate. For more information, email us at [email protected].
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