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IOCS Applauds Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Protection for Lemon Sharks

New FWC rule takes effect on March 23, 2010
March 22, 2010

A rule developed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to fully protect lemon sharks in Florida state waters goes into effect today, making it illegal to kill lemon sharks anywhere along the Florida coast to three miles out to sea. “Fortunately, this covers all of the lemon sharks’ breeding habitat and most of the adult lemon shark aggregations,” said Dr. Demian Chapman, Assistant Director for Science with the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University. Dr. Samuel Gruber, shark expert and key collaborator with the Institute, was the first to identify the need for this ruling. Dr. Chapman worked closely with Dr. Gruber to translate the scientific information available about lemon sharks in Florida waters into key policy recommendations.

Lemon sharks are often found near shore in shallow water, especially in southeast Florida, where they aggregate in large numbers each year. This makes them easy to locate and raises the potential for large numbers to be killed with minimal effort by fishermen.

In fact, Gruber and Chapman’s preliminary data from an ongoing shark tagging study contributed to this new policy. At least 7.5 percent of tagged adult lemon sharks from a southeast Florida aggregation succumbed to fishing mortality in just one season. At that rate, the entire lemon shark aggregation could be harvested in a few years. Recent regulatory actions protecting other shark species also appeared to be placing more fishing pressure on lemon sharks in Florida waters, where 90 percent of known lemon shark aggregations occur.

Healthy lemon shark populations are especially important to Florida’s dive charter industry which provides ecotourism trips to see lemon shark aggregations in the winter months.

Read more about FWC's new ruling

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