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CCA Florida’s Response to Shark Interactions in SE Florida

Kelly Denit, Director of the Office of Sustainable Fisheries, NOAA Fisheries Headquarters

Dear Kelly Denit,

On behalf of Coastal Conservation Association Florida (CCA Florida) and it’s nearly 20,000 members, I am submitting this letter regarding our concern about shark interactions and the act of chumming or feeding sharks by diving concessionaires in order to create “shark diving” opportunities for their dive clients.

As a result of these activities in Federal waters by dive boats in the Jupiter/Palm Beach area, sharks of all types have not only become highly concentrated but have altered their traditional feeding habits by associating readily available food sources with boats. Because Florida law prohibits the feeding of sharks, these dive boats go just beyond Florida’s three-mile coastal zone into Federal waters and “set up shop”.  

The result is that this highly concentrated group of sharks has come to associate a stopped boat with an easy food source.  Reports by recreational, charter, and commercial fishermen indicate that sharks appear under and around their boats within seconds or at the most minutes after the motors are turned off.   These anglers anecdotally report that, “any fish big enough to pull drag” is doomed.  As a result, a very high percentage of large bottom fish, king mackerel, large mahi, tunas, and cobia are sacrificed.  Divers who commercially or recreationally spearfish have reported that the sharks have come to associate the “click” of the release of the spear with the same easy meal.  Divers also report that whole squads of sharks routinely follow them.

CCA Florida is a membership organization made up of conservation-minded recreational fishing enthusiasts. We work to protect not only the health, habitat, and sustainability of our marine resources, but also the interests of recreational anglers and access to the resources we cherish.

This increase in shark interactions has many people worried about the stocks of highly prized bottom and pelagic fish that are kept for a source of food or income. CCA recognizes the important role of the shark in the ocean as a top predator, but we are concerned about the practice of feeding sharks and training sharks that boats represent an opportunity for food.  Many local anglers have told us that they have witnessed a noticeable decline in bottom fish populations and cobia in particular.  

CCA believes that there are several issues with regards to the chumming and feeding of sharks. CCA is concerned about the health of the local fish stocks as well as the safety of the recreational/commercial divers.  There have already been “accidents” involving professional divers in the area.  We don’t want recreational divers and clients to be next.  

We need to have Federal regulations match those already adopted in Florida waters.  Therefore, we need to amend the Magnusson Stevens Act to include a prohibition of shark feeding in Florida’s Federal waters.  

Sincerely,

Trip Aukeman

CCA Florida Director of Advocacy

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