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State is considering changing shark fishing regulations

One regulation would be a change to a fishing standard while the second would be a complete prohibition of fishing one species.

A division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is proposing changes to state saltwater fishing regulations for two shark species.

DNR’s Coastal Resources Division on Tuesday asked the state Board of Natural Resources to consider prohibiting 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).

The change to prohibit the harvest of Shortfin Mako Sharks less than 83 inches is required for Georgia to remain in compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission 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 commission approved the change to Shortfin Mako Sharks on May 1, 2019. Although the commission’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 Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2019, through Nov. 1, 2019. Following this comment period, the Board of Natural Resources will consider the proposed rule changes at 10 a.m. Dec. 4, 2019, at Lake Blackshear Resort, 2450-H U.S. Highway 280 West, Cordele, GA 31015. If approved, the new regulation would go into effect Jan. 1, 2020. Comments may be mailed or emailed to:

Carolyn Belcher
Coastal Resources Division
One Conservation Way
Brunswick, GA 31520

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