It's not usually our style to let others speak for us but in this case I think a YouTube user said it the best:
I have been big game fishing for 25 years and this is the most amateur kill i have ever seen. No wonder they have never seen anything like this before. They gaffed a green mako feeding on roadkill and were lucky they weren't pulled in or worse, get their boat torn up after pulling him aboard. Drunken morons with no skills that are lucky that Mako didn't tear them a new ass. What a disgrace, the fish deserved better. - YouTube user Zencaster
While that is an interesting (and colorful) opinion I'd like to point out that the real issue here is that the law may have been broken and, if so, an example must be made. First, watch the video in which no rods, tackle or fishing lines are shown being used in the sharks capture.
IMPORTANT LEGAL RAMIFICATIONS
Video time 1:10 (Reporters Voice): the crew wounds the shark with a gaff...
Here is the case to be made against the fisherman's actions which appear to have been at least initialized by an illegal fishing method, free-gaffing or using a pole with a hook to capture the animal in such a way that it led to the animals harvest.
Case 1: How they would have broken the law in State Waters
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission manages their State waters (shore to 3 miles out) while being coordinated by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) through an Interstate Fishery Management Plan. While the plan has undergone a series of recent revisions the current regulations clearly define that a shark may not be speared.
Current regulations define the term SPEARING as:
The catching or taking of a fish by bow hunting, gigging, spearfishing, or by any device used to capture a fish by piercing the body (gaff hooks .ed). Spearing does not include the catching or taking of a fish by a hook with hook and line gear, or by snagging (snatch hooking).
They further go on to clearly state:
Regulation #68B-44.003: Bag Limit Applicable to State Waters, Gear Restriction.
(2) The harvest or attempted harvest of any shark in or from state waters by spearing is prohibited.
Thus in State controlled waters the fishermen would have broken the law by 'free-gaffing' the shark, ie they did not use a permitted method of capture, therefore they broke the law. Check out the regulations for yourself here: MyFWC.com or download the PDF version here: Current shark regulations (Note, even though there are currently amendments being discussed to these laws they only serve to strengthen the current regulations and do not in any case permit free gaffing sharks)
However: The video clearly starts with the disclaimer that they were 18 miles offshore which puts them in Federal jurisdiction.
Case 2: How they may have broken the law in Federal waters
Federal waters are controlled by NOAA who run the Fisheries Office of Sustainable Fisheries: Atlantic Highly Migratory Species and have published the Guide for Complying with the Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, Sharks, and Billfish Regulations (DOWNLOAD HERE)
Within this guide is given the strict instructions (click here for the most up to date digital version):
No person may fish for, catch, possess, or retain any Atlantic HMS (Highly Migratory Species .ed) with gears other than the primary gears specifically authorized in this part. Consistent with paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(2) of this section, secondary gears may be used at boat side to aid and assist in subduing, or bringing on board a vessel, Atlantic HMS that have first been caught or captured using primary gears. For purposes of this part, secondary gears include, but are not limited to, dart harpoons, gaffs, flying gaffs, tail ropes, etc. Secondary gears may not be used to capture, or attempt to capture, free-swimming or undersized HMS. Except as specified in this paragraph (b), a vessel using or having onboard in the Atlantic Ocean any unauthorized gear may not possess an Atlantic HMS on board.
Let's make sure you caught that:
Secondary gears (gaffs) may not be used to capture, or attempt to capture, free-swimming or undersized HMS
By capturing a free swimming shark without the use of primary gear both State and Federal laws have been broken.
It is clear that these fishermen may have broken the law. The video appears clear and the reporter states that the capture was very likely initialized by an illegal fishing method. If this turns out to be an illegal kill the fishermen should know that NOAA documents clearly state: Since fishery rules frequently change, it is your responsibility as a fisherman to become familiar with the latest regulatory updates and to comply with the current official regulations.
SFMI will be writing to the following people asking for clarification of this matter and urge you to do the same:
JustNews.com (the agency that made the report)
Email: Click Here
NOAA's Highly Migratory Species Management Division at:
Phone: (301) 713-2347
Fax: (301) 713-1917
I'd hazard that I'm not the first to pick up on these fine points of the law but if the video does indeed tell the full tale then these laws need to be enforced. If however the fishermen can provide video evidence of them using PRIMARY tackle (ie hook and line) to initialize the capture then they would be within their rights to have landed the shark. If this turns out to be the case then I will instead turn this report into a cautionary tale of how the media should be more responsible in reporting on shark harvests, particularly when dealing with species considered by some to be globally threatened.
**UPDATE** Thanks to one of our readers for supplying a link to the latest IUCN report which reclassified the Mako shark (short and longfin) as Threatened - at risk of Extinction. Read the report here
Director of Shark-Free Marinas