Palm Beach County Sharks Under Attack
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has decided to open commercial shark fishing to begin January 1, 2016. This will target all species of shark including Lemon, Tiger and Hammerhead sharks.
A breeding population of Lemon Sharks aggregates each winter in the waters offshore of Jupiter, FL. Dr. Samuel Gruber, one of the world’s most renowned experts on Lemon sharks, confirmed that this particular aggregation behavior was one of a kind, not known anywhere else in the world. This finding set in motion a highly extensive study under the auspices of Doc Gruber’s Bimini Shark Lab. Information gained from the Jupiter Lemon Shark Project was able to fill in new chapters about this shark’s natural history that were previously unknown
In 2010, findings from Dr. Gruber’s research played an instrumental part in the State of Florida passing into law and granting complete protective status for lemon sharks in state waters. But NOAA has just opened commercial shark fishing in federal waters.
Delaying the commercial fishing season until July will make a huge difference to these animals. Without your help, our Lemon sharks, Tiger sharks, Hammerhead sharks, etc. may be wiped out in just a matter of days. We desperately need your help to prevent it from happening.
Here is a like to a petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/406/018/017/noaa-stop-commercial-shark-fishing-set-for-january-1-2016/?taf_id=18557543&cid=fb_na#sign
But we really need you to send a letter to Senator Bill Nelson, such as the one below penned by Richard Apple of Applecorps Photography.
Honorable William Nelson
413 Clematis Street
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Dear Senator Nelson,
I am writing to express my grave concerns regarding our coastal shark populations off the coast of Palm Beach County, FL. NOAA Fisheries has established Final Rules for 2016 permitting commercial shark fishing with each permitted fishing boat/permit to kill between 36 and 45 sharks PER DAY. This is to begin January 1, 2016 and continue automatically without interruption throughout the entire year unless NOAA decides to make a change. Such change would occur no earlier than their next scheduled meeting in March 2016 and, given the time to receive, study and consider changes, any enacted new rules would likely not occur any time soon thereafter.
NOAA Fisheries’ Final Rules were posted and announced November 30, 2015 and they claim that they gave proper notice of their proposed rules earlier in the year. Notification was clearly not widely observed and NOAA Fisheries did not find it within their good consciences to post their proposed rules in more commonly read publications such as local newspapers. They did not think it odd that there was barely a reply from what they know is a huge shark diving community throughout Florida.
Our Southeastern Florida and Palm Beach County economies are benefiting greatly by the draw to our areas of a seriously depleted shark population . . . a depleted shark population that is still greater than most other areas where divers can barely find any sharks to observe. Consequently, there was an immediate and vociferous reaction by our Palm Beach County shark diving operators and divers since the quotas mentioned above could, from our weekly first hand observations while diving with the sharks, serve to wipe out our local shark populations. This is particularly true in the Jupiter, FL area where Lemon and other Sharks aggregate during the start of the winter season in a rather small area.
I immediately started a Petition online which serves to ask NOAA Fisheries to postpone the start of the 2016 until the summer as they did for the last two years when the shark aggregations have ceased and the shark populations are more spread out over a much larger coastal area. In a matter of less than two weeks, my Petition has drawn over 15,000 signatures with some from states all across the United States as well as over 31 other countries. People are outraged that NOAA Fisheries, in the face of global shark populations having been reduced by up to 90%, somehow has decided that the Atlantic Coastal shark populations can withstand a normal commercial shark fishing activity. This will be a devastation to many areas within the Atlantic Coastal Area not the least of which is Northern Palm Beach County. While the State of Florida has formally banned the killing of Hammerhead Sharks, NOAA Fisheries makes no such ban or prohibition in Federal Waters.
In reaction to thousands of emails and phone calls by outraged shark conservationists and concerned citizens, NOAA Fisheries conducted a telephone conference yesterday at 2 PM. It was an insult to thousands who wished to participate since it lasted only 45 minutes, was dominated largely by their own prepared speeches, and only 7 or 8 persons were permitted to ask a question. The audio recording is now available for all to listen.
As to our first hand observations of our dwindling shark populations off Jupiter, FL and the fact that they are dominated by Lemon Shark populations, NOAA Fisheries advised that they had no interest in observing those populations with us as shark divers, believe that Lemon Sharks are not even targeted, and consider any small part of the Atlantic Coastal Area as unworthy of individual data collection no matter how sensitive. They indicated only that they would take that issue under advisement going forward. In the meantime, the quotas of permitted shark fishing would remain as averages across the entire Atlantic Coastal Area regardless of what we believe will be a devastating decimation of our local shark populations. The impact will also be felt in our eco-tourism revenues since divers come from all over Florida, the United States, and even foreign countries to dive with the shark populations which we are very lucky to have to offer.
A link to our Petition, a downloadable copy of the audio file from the telephone conference, and many, many other pieces of information can be found and shared on my Facebook Page, Applecorps Photography which is viewable by any and all Facebook users.
As a U.S. Senator representing the people of Florida including Palm Beach County, we are counting on you to correct this injustice to the people of Palm Beach County. We are counting on you to bring NOAA Fisheries in compliance with the U.S. support and agreement to the CITES document which recognized the plight of world-wide shark populations and to embrace the Shark Sanctuary established The Bahamas by doing the same in all U.S. waters.
Please feel free to have your staff contact me at their convenience and thank you for your prompt attention to this impending and tragic killing of sharks as will begin soon on January 1, 2016.
Richard S. Apple