It’s not unusual to take a walk on a Glynn County beach and suddenly find yourself witness to a shark coming out of the surf, hooked to a line cast by a lucky angler. How those sharks get hooked could change in the next several months, thanks to rules adopted by an East Coast regulatory body and requested by the state Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission — a cooperative effort of East Coast state governments to coordinate fishery regulations — passed an amendment Oct. 30 that requires member states to mandate anglers only use non-offset, corrodible, non-stainless-steel circle hooks when fishing for sharks in state waters, except when using flies or artificial lures. CRD subsequently made the request to the state DNR board at the board’s meeting Wednesday in Cordele.
This is in addition to recent requests that the board ban harvesting of oceanic whitetip sharks altogether and ban the harvest of shortfin mako sharks that are shorter than 83 inches fork length. While the whitetip sharks aren’t found in Georgia waters, the regulatory request is so they can’t be landed here, since they became classified as threatened as of Jan. 20, 2018, under the federal Endangered Species Act. The length specification as to the mako sharks is regardless of sex, a move state officials say is to prevent injury to people.
“We know from experience Georgia’s anglers are concerned about conservation,” Carolyn Belcher, chief of CRD’s Marine Fisheries Section, said in a statement. “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.”
The purpose of a corrodible circle hook is that it is less likely to seriously injure the shark and should it get stuck, be able to rust away and fall off the shark.
“It’s important to acknowledge that sharks are caught in a wide range of commercial and recreational fisheries in Georgia and beyond, and some of these species need extra management attention to speed their recovery,” said Paulita Bennett-Martin, Oceana campaign organizer for Georgia. “The action by the CRD to require circle hooks brings best practices to Georgia’s recreational fisheries and should support better management and better biological outcomes in the future.”
On the mako and whitetip rules, Bennett-Martin said, “Shortfin mako sharks are in an alarming condition in the North Atlantic, and leading scientists advise they should not be killed if we are going to recover the species. Georgia should be a leader here, as they have chosen to be with the oceanic whitetip, and take action to prohibit all catches of this imperiled species before it is too late.”
Public comment on the regulatory proposals is open and runs through Jan. 31, when the DNR board will meet on St. Simons Island and vote on those changes. Comments can be emailed to Belcher at email@example.com or mailed to her at Carolyn Belcher, Coastal Resources Division, One Conservation Way, Brunswick, Ga., 31520.
CRD is also seeking a hand from the public in finding nominees for the Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee and the Shore Protection Committee, who would serve from 2020 to 2023.
According to CRD, “Nominees are being sought who, by reason of their occupational or other experience, scientific expertise or training, are knowledgeable regarding the conservation, development uses and management of Georgia’s coastal environment.
“Nominees should have a strong conservation ethic in order to achieve the responsibilities of the committees under the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act and the Shore Protection Act. Nominees must be able to work collectively with other committee members to achieve the natural resource protections established by those acts. Nominees must be willing and able to commit to participating fully in committee business and related activities for the duration of their term.”
Resumes for nominees need to be sent to the DNR commissioner no later than Jan. 4, and to the attention of Josh Noble at the above CRD address or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.