End Shark Fishing Tournaments in New Jersey
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It is not uncommon to catch a shark in New Jersey waters in the months of May through October. Many are terrified to contemplate sharing the Jersey shore’s waters with such an alarming apex predator. Common misconceptions and opinions aside, shark populations are declining all over the world in devastating numbers with drastic impacts on the future of our ecosystem. As a matter of fact, in a report from WildAid, “Parts of the US East Coast may well host more recreational fishing for large sharks than anywhere else in the world”. It is considerable importance that sharks in the state of New Jersey are protected to combat future environmental catastrophes. Sharks return every year, their population are threatened by dangerous fishing tournaments and un-accompanying regulations. Allowing such activities to continue is negligent as it contributes to serious health hazards for the community as well as the environment. Critical changes must be implemented.
June is a prime time for fishermen as the shark fishing tournaments begin along the atlantic coast and the “thrill” of catching big game brings returns...along with major health risks. Shark fishing is extremely popular in Point Pleasant. Many charter boats and competitions offer significant cash prizes for the heaviest mako or thresher that can be obtained. Nicknamed “the Jersey Swordfish” according to their steak texture, it is typical that fishermen sell or keep shark meat for later consumption. According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, some of the species you might expect to see include: Shortfin mako, thresher, porbeagle, blue, lemon, blacktip, spinner, bull, finetooth, blacknose, atlantic sharpnose, scalloped and bonnethead hammerhead, and smooth and spiny dogfish. Mako and Thresher are the main goal for many ambitious fishermen despite the fact that these species in particular have elevated mercury levels. Mercury is toxic and can cause serious health problems (“Shark”). Without further action, shark fishing for meat encourages the community to be consuming poisonous levels of mercury causing many detrimental effects on people’s health.
In order to fish, anglers must acquire a permit and report any sharks for trade. Although the state encourages catch and release of makos, it is not required. Regulations have been set in place by NJ Department of Environmental Protection which states that each vessel may retain one shark per day (minimum fifty-four inches fork length), plus one bonnethead and atlantic sharpnose. It is mentioned on their website that “The registry is an important tool that will help fishermen and policymakers work together to better account for the contributions and impacts of saltwater anglers on ocean ecosystems and coastal economies. ” But how do these regulations protect the vulnerable or endangered species that inhabit New Jersey’s coast in the summer? The sexual maturity size of the Mako shark, the most popular game, is much larger than the minimum 54 inches required. Sexual maturity in a female mako is 108 inches and 73 for males. Not to mention the fifteen to eighteen-month gestational period, with only a few young who survive. Having such a long period of time invested into reproduction, and reproducing later in their lives, these regulations cannot be suitable for protection of a vulnerable species. A minimum size smaller than sexual maturity endangers sharks like the Thresher, for example, that reaches sexual maturity after about eight years, and only has two to four pups every two years. Furthermore, of the sharks listed above, thirteen appear on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s "red list" as vulnerable or endangered. Notably, there is no size limit or bag limit on spiny or smooth dogfish. The spiny dogfish also appears on the IUCN red list as vulnerable and have elevated mercury levels. Although many regulations are put in place, they could not possibly encourage the protection of the sharks that share the same ocean as New Jersey citizens. New enhanced regulations on shark fishing are urgent if the species is to have any chance.
All over the world, overexploitation of sharks is starting to concern scientists and communities as already ninety percent of apex predators have already been wiped from the sea. With all the knowledge discovered and new research being conducted, the conservation of sharks is not only an important environmental issue but a human health issue as well. If stricter regulations could be implemented and ultimately the eradication of shark tournaments, the future of shark populations and environmental impacts will see improvements worldwide.
Buckley, Luis, and Jennifer Hile. The End of the Line- Global Threat to Sharks. 2nd ed., WildAid,
2007, p. 28, The End of the Line- Global Threat to Sharks,
NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF FISH & WILDLIFE MARINE FISHERIES ADMINISTRATION
COMMERCIAL REGULATIONS. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, 20
“Shark.” Seafood Selector, Environmental Defense Fund, 28 Mar. 2013, seafood.edf.org/shark.
“The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.” The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species,
International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, 2017,
“What You Can Do to Protect Yourself against Mercury Poisoning.” Edited by Gary A Rayant, The
Dangers of Hidden Mercury, Dear Doctor, 5 May 2011,www.deardoctor.com/articles/the-dangers-of-hidden-mercury/
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