The first great white shark caught from a shore in Florida was 9 feet, 8½ inches long. A group of surfcasters shared an hour-long fight to reel in the juvenile Jaws early Tuesday in Panama City. Now they might share liability, according to state wildlife officials.
"We don't want to speculate on the legality of the activities in the photo without knowing all of the details," said Amanda Nalley of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "However, we've passed the photos along to law enforcement to take a closer look."
Members of the Dark Side Sharkers club snapped several photos, posting 10 by late Tuesday on Facebook. A large circle hook in the juvenile white’s jaw was prominent. One photo showed the shark’s release, reportedly after 10 minutes. Social media was a frenzy of compliments, shock, hats off praise, and criticism.
“Participating in the NOAA Fisheries cooperative angler program does not mean you don’t have to follow the law and rules,” said David Shiffman, a marine biologist who studies shark ecology at the University of Miami.
The FWC lists the great white and 24 other sharks as protected. The law was given extra teeth in 2012. and says, "No person shall harvest, possess, land, purchase, sell, or exchange any part of these species."
Photos by Dark Side Sharkers appear to show the juvenile great white was "landed." Under state law, protected marine species must be "immediately returned to the water free, alive, and unharmed."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed the catch was the first in the Gulf from dry land. “I’m still blown away by it. Lost for words,” Derrick Keeny told Fox 13 in Tampa Bay.
Keeny, Gabriel Smeby and Kyle Register teamed up for the catch. Smeby called the event “controlled chaos.” Video was also taken as the shark was brought to shore, tagged, and released. Photos and video posted on Facebook are often used in cases involving wildlife violations.
"Photographs and measurements can be taken during the release of a prohibited species, but should not delay the release," Nalley said in an email..
In a Facebook declaration, Dark Side Sharkers says it supports conservation and “CPR” – catch, photograph and release. Smeby told told Fox 13 the white was “an extremely tame shark.”
“Leaving a fish out of water like that can be harmful and is completely unnecessary,” Shiffman said. “You can tag and release in shallow water."
» Captive breeding may be the last chance to save Florida's grasshopper sparrow, North America's most endangered bird. (Via Audubon)