CRD proposes circle-hook, other changes for shark fishing

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (Dec. 4, 2019) -- A division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is proposing additional changes to fishing regulations first recommended in September.

The Coastal Resources Division of DNR on Wednesday asked the state Board of Natural Resources to require anglers to use non-offset, corrodible, non-stainless-steel circle hooks when fishing for all species of sharks in state waters, except when using flies or artificial lures. This is in addition to requests made in September that the board prohibit the harvest of Shortfin Mako Shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) less than 83 inches fork length, regardless of sex, and to completely prohibit the harvest of Oceanic Whitetip Shark (Carcharhinus longimanus).

This additional circle-hook request comes after the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) passed an amendment on Oct. 30, 2019, requiring the use of such hooks in member states. The ASMFC requires state implementation of this rule by July 1, 2020.

Circle hooks are more likely to lodge in the corner of the jaw, making removal of the hook easier. Circle hooks reduce the chances of gut or foul hooking of the shark and increase chances of shark survival. Also, hooks made of corrodible material, rather than stainless steel, rust away faster in the event the hook cannot be removed from the shark.

The previously requested change to prohibit the harvest of Shortfin Mako Sharks less than 83 inches is required for Georgia to remain in compliance with the ASMFC Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Coastal Sharks. Georgia is a member of the commission, which seeks to coordinate interstate management of more than two dozen species of fish and crustaceans in waters along the Atlantic Seaboard.

The ASMFC approved the change to Shortfin Mako Sharks on May 1, 2019 (Learn more here). Although the ASFMC’s Coastal Sharks Management Board approved a smaller limit of 71 inches fork length for males along with the 83 fork length minimum for females, Georgia DNR’s Coastal Resources Division is recommending a more conservative approach for Shortfin Mako Sharks by setting the harvestable size to individuals greater than 83 inches, regardless of sex.

“We know from experience Georgia’s anglers are concerned about conservation,” said Carolyn Belcher, chief of Coastal Resources Division’s Marine Fisheries Section. “We also know identifying whether such a large fish is male or female can be dangerous, so we wanted the process to be as simple and safe as possible for Georgia’s saltwater anglers.”

Coastal Resources Division also considered the rarity with which Shortfin Make Sharks are seen in Georgia’s waters when recommending the 83 inch minimum for both sexes.

Additionally, the Coastal Resources Division is seeking to completely prohibit the harvest of Oceanic Whitetip Shark, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries office listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act on Jan. 20, 2018. Although Oceanic Whitetip Shark do not live in Georgia’s waters, prohibiting their possession would restrict shark fishermen from landing this species in Georgia.

The public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposal beginning today, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, through Jan. 31, 2020. Following this comment period, the Board of Natural Resources will consider the proposed rule changes at 9 a.m. Jan. 31, 2019, at the A.W. Jones Heritage Center, 610 Beachview Drive, St. Simons Island, GA 31522. If approved, the new regulation would go into effect July 1, 2020. Comments may be mailed or emailed to:

Carolyn Belcher Coastal Resources Division One Conservation Way Brunswick, GA 31520 carolyn.belcher@dnr.ga.gov 

Learn more about Shortfin Mako Sharks here:https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/atlantic-shortfin-mako-shark

Learn more about Oceanic Whitetip Sharks here:https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/oceanic-whitetip-sh

Learn best-practice technique tips for handling sharks here:https://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/nefsc/Narragansett/sharks/survive.html

Learn more about the management of coastal sharks here:http://www.asmfc.org/species/coastal-sharks

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The full public notice and Board of Natural Resources packet can be downloaded here: https://coastalgadnr.org/sites/default/files/crd/pdf/ReBriefSharkRulePackageforBoard.pdf

Members of the media or public with questions may contact CRD's communications specialist, Tyler Jones, attyler.jones@dnr.ga.govor 912-262-3140.

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