Why It Matters: Science-based fisheries management and access to our fisheries have always been at the center of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) mission. In both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, sharks are increasingly intercepting fish being landed by recreational and commercial fishermen, creating frustration for anglers and challenges for fisheries sustainability. Fortunately, a bill recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives will create a task force of experts to explore shark depredation and develop recommendations on how to avoid or mitigate shark interference with important recreational and commercial fisheries.
- Sharks have become increasingly problematic for recreational and commercial fisheries in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico as their numbers have increased and they have learned that fishing vessels provide easy meals.
- The possibility of shark depredation occurring is a natural part of fishing. However, in recent years the frequency of shark depredation has increased rapidly in many parts of the country.
On February 5, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Supporting the Health of Aquatic systems through Research Knowledge and Enhanced Dialogue Act, or SHARKED Act (H.R. 4051), introduced by Rep. Rob Wittman (VA) and Rep. Darren Soto (FL). The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has been a strong supporter of addressing the shark depredation issue using sound science and the SHARKED Act provides that pathway.
The SHARKED Act would simply establish a non-regulatory task force that would be responsible for making recommendations for improving coordination and communication across the fisheries management community on shark depredation, as well as identifying research priorities and funding opportunities. Increased shark depredation, often referred to as a visit from the “tax man”, has quickly become a significant challenge for recreational and commercial fisheries in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.
Sharks play an important role in our marine ecosystems. However, hooked fish being landed by anglers or commercial fishermen creates an unnatural and easy meal for sharks and exposes them to potentially harmful fishing gear. As the rate of shark depredation has increased, fishermen have become increasingly frustrated by the issue and a lack of response from the fisheries management community. Since shark depredation crosses federal and state jurisdictional lines, and since no single entity has clear regulatory authority, the growing challenge is not being addressed.
The bipartisan SHARKED Act seeks to take the first step in addressing the problem by assembling a team of experts to develop recommendations on how to avoid or mitigate shark interference with important recreational and commercial fisheries. It is now up to the U.S. Senate to take up the House deferred bill or introduce and pass a similar version of their own. Either way, CSF will do our part to see this bill become law in 2024.